To The Cloud

To the Cloud: big data in a turbulent world

25 September 2013
Time: 2.00pm – 4.00pm
Location: A7.03, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)
Location: Watford Road, Northwick Park, Middlesex HA1 3TP – View map
Speakers: Vincent Mosco (Queen’s University)

The opening talk of this autumn’s CAMRI Research Seminar Series.


This presentation offers an account of the political, economic, social and cultural issues emerging from the growth of cloud computing. It starts by situating cloud computing as a major force in the globalisation of informational capitalism and in the advance of a particular way of knowing, what I call digital positivism. It proceeds to examine the origins of cloud computing in the movements that arose in the pre-internet era to create an information utility.

The presentation then defines cloud computing, describes its major characteristics, and identifies the leading corporate, and government cloud players. In doing so, it describes the battles for market power among a handful of companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Rackspace, the rapid and, for some, worrisome, expansion of the government cloud, the internationalisation of cloud computing, and the emergence of bottom-up community cloud projects.

Next, it considers how the cloud is being marketed and mythologised through advertising, social media, corporate and government research, industry lobbying, and marketing events. Massive promotion is essential because dark clouds are gathering over the industry including the environmental problems created by data centres; concerns over privacy, security, and surveillance; and labour issues, particularly the impact on IT departments, and more generally on knowledge workers whose jobs are threatened by the cloud. The presentation concludes by offering a technical and a cultural critique of big data, digital positivism, and the cloud’s “way of knowing.”


Dr Vincent Mosco is Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Canada. He is formerly Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society and Professor of Sociology. Dr Mosco graduated from Georgetown University (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in 1970 and received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University in 1975.

Dr Mosco is the author of numerous books on communication, technology, and society. His most recent include Marx is Back – The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Communication Studies Today, ed. with Christian Fuchs and published as a special issue of tripleC–Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society ( 2012, Getting the Message: Communications Workers and Global Value Chains (co-edited with Catherine McKercher and Ursula Huws, Merlin, 2010), The Political Economy of Communication, second edition (Sage, 2009), The Laboring of Communication: Will Knowledge Workers of the World Unite (co-authored with Catherine McKercher, Lexington Books, 2008), Knowledge Workers in the Information Society (co-edited with Catherine McKercher, Lexington Books, 2007), and The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power, and Cyberspace (MIT Press, 2004). The Digital Sublime won the 2005 Olson Award for outstanding book in the field of rhetoric and cultural studies.

Dr Mosco is a member of the editorial boards of academic journals in the North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He has held research positions in the US government with the White House Office of Telecommunication Policy, the National Research Council and the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and in Canada with the Federal Department of Communication. Dr Mosco is a founding member of the Union for Democratic Communication, served as head of the Political Economy section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, and was a longtime research associate of the Harvard University Program on Information Resources Policy. In addition, he has been a consultant to trade unions and worker organisations in Canada and the United States. In 2004 Dr Mosco received the Dallas W Smythe Award for outstanding achievement in communication research.

Dr Mosco is currently working on an edited collection, Critical Studies in Communication and Society, ed. with Cao Jin and Leslie Reagan Shade, to be published by the Shanghai Translation Publishing House, and a book on the political, economic, and cultural significance of cloud computing.


Participation is free and everyone is welcome. Please register at latest until 22 September by sending an email to Christian Fuchs:

Comments are closed.