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    Grow Your Own Cloud

    by Monika Seyfried 07/02/2019 01:32 PM BST

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          Grow Your Own Cloud

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          Grow Your Own Cloud is a project which explores the future of data storage, storing data nature's way, in the DNA of plants. By offering an alternative to data centres, we propose a new type of 'cloud' - one that is organic, rather than silicon, and which emits oxygen rather than CO2. The project seeks to uncover the scientific potential in this area to deploy these methods at scale, as well as imagine and convey the implications of this approach through series of prototypes. Grow Your Own Cloud uses circular economy, exploring natural solutions to stop problematic increase of data warming.

          Our appetite for data is insatiable. In a digital world, watching videos, taking photos or asking for directions, means more data flowing into an invisible cloud. Yet this cloud is far less fluffy than we think, occupying swathes of land to house giant data centres, and consuming huge amounts of electricity. Today, global data centres use more energy than the entire UK, and by 2025 they will use more than 20% of our Global Energy.

          In a post-industrial age of information, data is the new oil, and companies that deal in data are the largest in the world. Just like oil before it, our demand for data has a serious impact on the environment. The greenhouse gases emitted by data consumption already rival the aviation industry, and look set to grow exponentially.

          We're locked into a new consumption cycle, driving us towards a future of 'data warming.' Our ecological awareness might be rising, yet our behaviours and technologies seem to lead us towards the same outcomes. How can we intervene and draw attention to something as seemingly abstract and immaterial as data consumption, before it's too late, again.

          Grow Your Own Cloud proposes an alternative, utilising the latest breakthroughs in biotechnology to store data nature's way, in the DNA of plants. By creating a new materiality around data, the project looks past perceived reality by embedding one of the most highly valued commodities, data, within nature to not only prevent further destruction, but present new opportunities for the expansion of natural habitats and the regeneration of the environment.


          To bring this to life, together with the bio technologists from the University of Copenahgen we transformed a flowershop into a decentralized data centre, and invited people to upload their data to the new cloud. The experience sought to use the everyday setting of the flowershop to transport people into a future where nature and data are no longer remote foreign entities, but local, familiar, and filled with valuable data.

          By deploying scientific knowledge outside of the lab, and using artistic devices outside of the gallery, we were able to educate and engage people, spark knowledge exchange, unexpected ideas and dialogue on the future of data, biotechnology and our relationship with nature and technology.

          Biological cloud in an urban environment:

          By creating a new materiality around data, we position it as a transformative asset, capable of bringing nature back to the urban context, presenting new opportunities for the expansion of natural habitats and the regeneration of the environment. In the smart city, humans and machines produce thousands of classes of data everyday. While real-time data will continue to flow to silicon data centers, through Grow Your Own Cloud, the huge amounts of data that we currently store but do not require on a daily basis will be archived through biological data storage.

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          Cyrus Clarke

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