Technologies of Imagination: Locating the Cloud in Sweden’s North


  • Asta Vonderau



Abstract | When in 2011 a world-leading IT company expressed the intention to locate its infrastructure in the Swedish city of Luleå, this announcement immediately triggered future scenarios and visions of a new industrial era, economic prosperity, and changing urban life. Such anticipation was supported and shaped by municipal planning and business-management activities that soon materialized in the form of building sites, regional development strategies, and new markets. Since the actual name and operations of the IT company were kept entirely secret, the planning and implementation of “Project Gold”—as the data centre project was called locally—was as much driven by collective imaginaries as by hard facts or past experiences. This article is based on an ethnographic study that followed the implementation of Facebook’s first European data centre in Luleå. The paper analyzes different modes of data centre infrastructural (in)visibility and shows how imaginaries became influential both for implementing the cloud in Luleå and for shaping the anticipated time and space of “post-extractive modernity.” More specifically, the paper focuses on socio-technical preconditions as well as concrete practices and styles—technologies of imagination—enabling those imaginaries.

Author Biography

Asta Vonderau

Asta Vonderau is an Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. Vonderau’s research focusses on political and economic developments in Europe after 1990, particularly their material-technological and bodily forms.Her research includes studies of post-socialist transformation processes in Eastern Europe, and of the adoption of EU policies and standards in various local contexts. Vonderau’s current project, Farming Data, Forming the Cloud: The Environmental Impact and Cultural Production of IT Technology, is based on an ethnographic study of the social and environmental effects of the data centre industry in Sweden, investigating the relation between global IT infrastructures and their local sites.

Asta Vonderau est professeure adjointe en anthropologie sociale à l’Université de Stockholm. Les recherches de Vonderau se concentrent sur les développements politiques et économiques en Europe après 1990, en particulier sur leurs formes matérielles-technologiques et corporelles. Ses recherches comprennent des études sur les processus de transformation postsocialistes en Europe de l’Est et sur l’adoption de politiques et de normes de l’UE dans divers contextes locaux. Le projet actuel de Vonderau, Farming Data, Forming the Cloud: The Environmental Impact and Cultural Production of IT Technology, repose sur une étude ethnographique des effets sociaux et environnementaux de l’industrie des centres de données en Suède. Elle étudie la relation entre les infrastructures informatiques globales et leurs sites locaux.




How to Cite

Vonderau, A. (2018). Technologies of Imagination: Locating the Cloud in Sweden’s North. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, 8(2), 8–21.