Graham Pickren's Blog

Sustainability Studies, Faculty Member

Graham Pickren's areas of expertise converge around three interrelated themes: an urban political ecology approach to the study of digital technologies and the infrastructure of the internet; an interest in green political economy and debates about sustainability; and a constructive engagement with environmental governance and policy, specifically around the role of markets in driving socio-environmental change.

Graham's current project focuses on the ‘factories of the 21st century’: data centers. Data centers, the heart of ‘cloud computing’, are essentially massive computing centers that power the transmission of digital data that makes the internet and mobile devices work. For example, clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook page necessitates the flow of energy into a data center in order to store that information. Location, specifically proximity to both urban network hubs and affordable electricity, is one of the key factors driving the agglomeration of this infrastructure. Many communities across the globe are experiencing dramatic land use change associated with the arrival of these ‘factories’, and mapping out where data centers are, where and how they draw energy, and the economic and environmental impacts on communities remains a crucial task that has important implications in terms of understanding the relationship between computing and socionatural change.

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