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Recent Publication Information for Tung-Hui Hu


A Prehistory of the Cloud


Tung-Hui Hu
Faculty Info


We may imagine the digital cloud as placeless, mute, ethereal, and unmediated. Yet the reality of the cloud is embodied in thousands of massive data centers, any one of which can use as much electricity as a midsized town. Even all these data centers are only one small part of the cloud. Behind that cloud-shaped icon on our screens is a whole universe of technologies and cultural norms, all working to keep us from noticing their existence. In this book, Tung-Hui Hu examines the gap between the real and the virtual in our understanding of the cloud.

Hu shows that the cloud grew out of such older networks as railroad tracks, sewer lines, and television circuits. He describes key moments in the prehistory of the cloud, from the game "Spacewar" as exemplar of time-sharing computers to Cold War bunkers that were later reused as data centers. Countering the popular perception of a new "cloudlike" political power that is dispersed and immaterial, Hu argues that the cloud grafts digital technologies onto older ways of exerting power over a population. But because we invest the cloud with cultural fantasies about security and participation, we fail to recognize its militarized origins and ideology. Moving between the materiality of the technology itself and its cultural rhetoric, Hu's account offers a set of new tools for rethinking the contemporary digital environment.

All recent publications by Tung-Hui Hu

  • A Prehistory of the Cloud
  • Greenhouses, Lighthouses

All publications by Tung-Hui Hu

poetry: Greenhouses, Lighthouses (Copper Canyon Press, 2013); Mine (Ausable Press, 2007); The Book of Motion (University of Georgia Press, 2003).

academic: A Prehistory of the Cloud (MIT Press, 2015); "Black Boxes and Green Lights: Media, Infrastructure, and the Future at Any Cost", ELN 55.1 (2017); "Work at the Bleeding Edge of Sovereignty," in Former West: Art and the Contemporary after 1989 (edited vol, MIT Press, 2017); "Truckstops on the Information Superhighway: Ant Farm, SRI, and the Cloud," Media-N 10:1 (2014); "Real Time/Zero Time," Discourse 34:2-3 (2013): 163-184.

other: contributor to Nervous Systems: Quantified Life and the Social Question exhibition (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin); essays on craft in The RMP Field Guide to Prose PoetryActs + Encounters, and Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres; reviews in caa.reviews and NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies.

awards/fellowships: National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Foundation, University of Mississippi, Yaddo, MacDowell, Michigan Society of Fellows, BAU/Camargo Foundation, University of Michigan Henry Russel Award.

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