Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The BBC reports that a remarkable project has been proposed for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, under the working title "the Cloud." The plan for the "sculptural spectacle" describes a number of plastic bubbles (the number to be determined by funds raised from "micro-donations") clustered atop lightweight towers. The Cloud would serve as both an observation deck and a display for "images and data"--in particular, "a custom feed of ... searches made by Londoners during the Olympics to give a real time 'barometer' of the city's interests and mood." The latter is drawn from a statement by Google, one of the project's supporters, which would presumably "feed" the information displayed, and which is also soliciting micro-donations for the "cloud-raising" at the top of its main search page (in England). The Cloud will moreover "harvest" potential energy from visitors scaling the towers. "It will be a monument to crowd-sourcing," one of the architects observes. The Cloud, in short, is a monument to the crowd, at once funded and powered by it, and projecting its "interests and moods" in phantasmagoric display. The "weather" visible in this sculptural "barometer" is not the sort we generally read in the clouds, but the condition of the mind of the crowd. (In particular, its questions, what it searches for. One wonders what sort of editing will go on.) The urge to overlay the real "display" of London's famously cloudy skies with a cloud-like "screen" seems to suggest that the weather is merely a convenient form for our questions and desires. But the Cloud also acknowledges that our minds are "clouded." Like tag clouds and cloud computing, it reveals a drift from the mind (of the crowd) to the digital to the weather (especially clouds) in recent technological development--as if we aspired to the condition of the clouds.

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