With the utmost intention to inspire and imagine futures in which data is a sustainable and public resource, the duo behind GROW YOUR OWN CLOUD works with data as a material and nature as a technology. At once utilising and contriving the organic to reach a satisfying unity. One of the creators is an artist and futurist with a background in economics and digital technologies; the other, an interaction-designer with a background in art, photography and filmmaking. This combined skill-set is weighty. Emerging technologies, digital media and the natural environment intersect in the generation of sensory-rich interactive spaces. In parallel, discussions on the ethical, environmental, political and socio-economic implications of the technology-filled worlds created, are initiated. There’s much to fathom.
Have you ever thought about growing your own cloud? Not one of those fluffy beings in the sky but a concealed data-cloud containing an almost unfathomable mix of digital files, from tinder swipes to corporate emails, Instagram-posts to meteorological data. While today your data exists on faraway servers connected via the internet, literally serving information to other computers, what if instead your data was alive, could reproduce, flourish, and even spread?
It might seem far-fetched, but in recent decades scientists have been exploring the feasibility of organic data storage. This involves a cutting-edge yet ancient information system. A technology that could potentially store a year’s worth of data in just one kilogram of material. A device that in stark contrast to the planned obsolescence of modern computing devices, would never become obsolete. The method is biological data storage. The format is DNA. While scientists explore improving read/write speeds and the density of DNA data storage, a group of designers, artists, researchers, and scientists is working to understand how DNA data storage technology might offer society, ecosystems, and the planet a fresh perspective.
Grow Your Own Cloud (GYOC) is an initiative investigating data storage. It works with carbon-absorbing organisms — in particular, plants that not only reduce the environmental impact of data storage but transform the industry into a source of carbon absorption. The idea involves embedding modern society’s most highly valued commodity —>data<— in nature, to not only prevent further destruction but present possibilities for the expansion of natural habitats and regeneration of the environment.
Conceived by us - Monika Seyfried and Cyrus Clarke - this idea emerged from the realisation that the Cloud, while apparently invisible and even innocuous, is as material as can be; a megalithic structure housing wall-to-wall racks of silicon servers, consuming absurd amounts of electricity. By some estimates, global data centres use more energy than the entire UK, and by 2025, the surging requirement for on-demand internet platforms and services means that those centres will be using more than 20% of the global energy supply...