THE PERSONAL DATA INITIATIVE

 

Welcome, please scroll down for a walkthrough!

Please make sure to watch the MAIN VIDEO in the VIDEO section.

(Different than the INTRODUCTORY VIDEO)

This thesis project defines new ways of public reception and understanding for the ever more pervasive internet infrastructure. Through a configuration of various programmatic elements dealing with the social, political and material components of digital data, the proposal projects an environment where the internet infrastructure gains a novel form of publicness and gradually reveals itself as an experience of sensual qualities. The ambitions of the project are carried through in the form of a publicly owned fictional data and genome center facility where a short circuit between the digital and genome data renders our digital-selves as personal as our DNA.

Bleachers

THE PERSONAL DATA INITIATIVE

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THESIS CONTENTION
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"White noise & Chill"

THE PERSONAL DATA INITIATIVE

The internet infrastructure is dominantly characterized by its mute nature and inaccessibility

that constructs the ethereal reading of the cloud. 

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'Where the Internet Lives'

Google data center, Connie Zhou

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INTRODUCTION
& SITE VISITS

AT&T Long Lines Building

Data center, Tribeca, NYC

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Cooling towers on the roof of data center

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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The material byproducts and cautionary signifiers become the rare moments where the internet infrastructure is recognizable in the built environment.

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Electric wires around 'DATACENTER.COM'

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Barbed wires around data center

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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There are several fiber-optic cables that connect the internet of Europe and North America most of which make landings along the coasts of NY and NJ. I visited some of the landing locations looking for different types of signifiers for the underlying infrastructure that is very critical for our lives.

Map of visited cable landing locations

New York, New Jersey

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RIGHT

'Possible markers'

Manasquan, NJ

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LEFT

Official Markers’: Buried Fiber Warning

Shirley, NY

Very few locations featured official markers such as buried fiber optic cable warning signs where most locations featured various objects that could possibly be marking an important location. 

The sites featured traces of human activity and dominant sensual features such as the blowing wind and sound of waves which offered a promising setting for an unusual public adjacency to the internet infrastructure.

This footage is from the project site, Far Rockaway beach in Queens, NY

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Most data centers in the built environment reject any sense of publicness and serve as hubs of pure functionality where architecture acts as an element of protection and marketing for investors with features of sustainability and aesthetics. The proposal appropriates some of the strategies present in the built environment to produce sensual effects and layers of revelation. 

For much more on NY, NJ and Amsterdam site visits, Yale Center for Genome Analysis and an interview

see p.36 - p.106 on; 

NARRATIVE

The problem of personal data agency in the present cloud structure is important to acknowledge for understanding the proposal. This diagram shows the typical path of personal data under the control of tech companies and how they benefit by using it for targeted ads and gain ever increasing access to private content as they share data with the State and gain more power over privacy through policies in a feedback loop.

 

The Personal Data Initiative is imagined as a middle agent that governs the handling of personal data by 3rd parties and undertakes the storage of them in its data centers. The users gain agency over their own data as the initiative offers the benefits enjoyed by the private entities back to the users. 

The personal data council sits at the heart of the complex, where the elected delegates govern the handling of personal data in the digital sphere and fight private and public entities over policies. The elements clashing into each other form the reading of a politically charged space that is formed by the deconstruction of its surrounding. The fractured roof allows transparency from the habitable rooftop in to the council.

Please hover your cursor over the images for text

The data centers, genome lab, personal data services and the auditorium are located around the council and are housed in the aggregation of a rudimentary form. 

Over the majority of the site, the rudimentary form is submerged, revealing its content through elementary formal maneuvers or it gets manipulated to house specific public functions such as the auditorium in the background. 

The form mimics the hot aisle/cold aisle air flow strategy of a typical data center floor in an attempt to communicate a caricature-like sense of functional clarity and to create expressive seams between the form and topography. 

A public sequence carved through the site provides more defined spaces of activity and reveals the submerged forms in their full elevation.

The formal elements take an expressive tone through the carve to provide opportunities for public activities and mark a disruption in the overall formal logic. 

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Far Rockaway Beach in Queens is selected as a testing ground for the strategy to be applied. Other than being one of the handful of locations for submarine cable landing from Europe,

it also provides the grounds to challenge the conventional hierarchies of the data center typology. 

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The site sets opportunities for unprecedented public adjacencies and offers an isolated urban moment where the sensual byproducts of the data infrastructure take an expressive tone and communicate the material reality of the seemingly ethereal digital data which is under control of an entity, in a real, physical place. 

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Please watch the main video to position yourself in the environment and

experience sequences of sensual and material qualities:

(make sure your audio is ON)

Please visit the board for all drawings:

Extensive site visit documentation, research, interview and progress content: 

THANK YOU !