Data centers as infrastructural in‐betweens

Expanding connections and enduring marginalities in Iceland

by ALIX JOHNSON

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On Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula, a new industry is taking root in the ruins of a US military base: digital data storage. The new data centers, where transnational corporations pay to store terabytes of information, have been lauded as transformative for the region. But as they engage the military base's physical infrastructures, spatial orders, and affective resonances, they reprise and cement Reykjanes's former role as an infrastructural in‐between: a node in others’ networks, both built in and left out. Thus, while digital networks are often imagined as overcoming marginality through the “death of distance” or “compression of space‐time,” their layering amid imperial legacies means that on Reykjanes they perpetuate marginality. These conditions illustrate the unevenly emplaced impacts of cloud computing and unsettle the techno‐utopian ideal of connectivity.

An international data center in Reykjanes, Iceland, built on a former US military base, April 20, 2015. This new facility takes its place between the base's water tower (left) and accounting building (right).
An international data center in Reykjanes, Iceland, built on a former US military base, April 20, 2015. This new facility takes its place between the base's water tower (left) and accounting building (right). (Alix Johnson)