In the Making: Books vs. Cloud Technology

May 19, 2023

“In a thousand years, future archaeologists will never be able to experience cat memes or GIFs or NFTs, because the contents of these drives will likely be irretrievable. Meanwhile, we can still read the cuneiform etched into clay tablets by Sumerians five thousand years ago.”

On Thursday, May 18, 2023 we hosted a virtual lecture on books and their digital counterparts with cloud anthropologist Steven Gonzalez Monserrate, with fine bindings made by NBSS students and alumni as a backdrop.

Steven, a PhD candidate in the History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, & Society (HASTS) program at MIT, shared his research on cloud storage technology and its fragility compared to ancient technologies of data storage such Incan quipu, papyrus scrolls, and bound books. He challenged the perception that the cloud is inherently more “green” than physical media, showing how digital storage infrastructure has a large environmental footprint.

Conversations with Steven helped inform our 2023 Exhibition: Continual Craft, in which we explore how NBSS students and graduates are contributing to a more lasting future by crafting objects with care, using materials considerately, and repairing the world around us.

“In the Making” is a public programs series where we connect with a range of new voices, fields, and perspectives. Learn more and view a full list of events on the series homepage.

With thanks to our underwriters

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Adams + Beasley Associates
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Eaton Vance

Columbia Contracting Corp.
Platt Builders

First Republic Bank
F.H. Perry Builder
Firestone & Parson Inc.
Inland Underwriters Insurance Agency
Muecke, Inc.
Sequoia Custom Builders, Inc.