THE GATHERING CLOUD
J R Carpenter
Winner of the New Media Writing Prize 2016
The Gathering Cloud aims to address the environmental impact of so-called 'cloud' computing by calling attention to the materiality of the clouds in the sky. Both are commonly perceived to be infinite resources, at once vast and immaterial; both, decidedly, are not. Fragments of text from Luke Howard's classic Essay on the Modifications of Clouds (1803) and other more recent online articles and books on media and the environment are pared down into hyptertextual hendecasyllabic verses. These are situated within surreal animated gif collages composed of images materially appropriated from publicly accessible cloud storage services. The cognitive dissonance between the cultural fantasy of cloud storage and the hard facts of its environmental impact is bridged, in part, through the constant evocation of animals: A cumulus cloud weighs one hundred elephants. A USB fish swims through a cloud of cables. Four million cute cat pics are shared each day. A small print iteration of The Gathering Cloud shared through gift, trade, mail art, and small press economies further confuses boundaries between physical and digital, scarcity and waste. An extended print book edition of The Gathering Cloud, featuring a foreward by Jussi Parikka and an afterword by Lisa Robertson, will be published by Uniformbooks in April 2017.

The Gathering Cloud was commissioned by NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Dundee, UK, 9-13 November 2016. Many thanks to the curators Sarah Cook and Donna Holford-Lovell. Portions of this text were first performed during the South West Poetry Tour, 1-8 August 2016. Thanks and curses to Annabel Banks for suggesting the hendecasyllabic constraint. Thanks to Jerome Fletcher, Kay Lovelace, Michael Saunby, and the Informatics Lab at the Met Office for discussions on code and the weather. And thanks to if:book, the New Media Writing Prize 2016, and the Saboteur Awards 2017 for your ongoing support.

FURTHER READING:
Aristotle, Meteorologica, 350 BCE.
James Glanz, Power, Pollution, and the Internet, The New York Times, September 22, 2012
Luke Howard, Essay on the Modifications of Clouds, 1803.
Tung-Hui Hu, A Prehistory of the Cloud, MIT Press, 2015.
Boris Jardine, Made real: artifice and accuracy in nineteenth-century scientific illustration, Science Museum Group Journal, Autumn 2014
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, c. 55 BCE
Petre Moore, The Weather Experiment, Vintage, 2015.
Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide, Sceptre, 2007.
Jussi Parikka, J. R. Carpenter's The Gathering Cloud
NEoN speaks with JR Carpenter
NEoN commission wins New Media Writing Prize
JR Carpenter takes the big prize at the 2016 New Media Writing Prize Awards