UBC Graduate Research

Of cloud and land Higson, Julia


As an uncertain future looms, it is vital to explore the relationship between the city and the power structures and technologies that shape it. Today’s new empires of technology emerge to remake the city for their gain. They adopt narratives of sustainability, resilience, and a utopian belief in the possibility of improving life through technology. Through this lens, the city becomes a programmable space, reduced to 'solutionist' terms, where the messiness of urban life can be understood and logically optimized with enough data. While this claims to be in favor of innovation and improvement, these developments often benefit from and further enable existing power structures. They obscure environmental and social impacts through tools of sleek aesthetics and words like ‘the cloud’. In reality, cities built by the cloud are shaped by a controlled, exclusionary logic. They are designed around enclosure, centralization, monopolization, and the commodification of urban life for corporate gain. This project proposes moments of resistance that celebrate friction, complexity, and community at Amazon’s corporate headquarters in Seattle.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International