28 January, 2022

New Publication in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space

The growth and consequences of data centres is not known and largely not public. Great to see our map of data centres in the Washington Metropolitan Area and their impact published in Environment and Planning A.

Four reasons why data centers matter, five implications of their social spatial distribution, one graphic to visualize them

by Desmond Bast, Constance Carr, Karinne Madron, Ahmad Mafaz Syrus

Abstract Data centers constitute a new kind of telecommunications infrastructure that demands attention for four reasons. Data centers are under-examined in the social sciences literature, urban studies, in particular. Data centers present an under explored geography of cyberworlds. Large digital corporations such as Amazon or Google are expanding their role in urban infrastructural development (such as data centers), and it is necessary to research and explain this phenomenon. Data centers present challenges of urban governance. The graphic provided here visualizes the social spatial distribution of data centers in the Washington Metropolitan Area. There are five implications of their social spatial distribution. Data centers are concentrated in metropolitan areas. Data centers have a high demand for energy and water, competing with local residents for these resources. The data center industry is a state-led niche economy. The uneven distribution of data centers can invoke inter-county competition for tax revenue, in addition to access to the water, power, and land resources that data centers require. The scale of the problem is unknown because the input needs of many data centers are not publicly available.

You can read the full text and download the map here (Open Access):

This is the first publication resulting from Carr's FNR funded project entitled, “Digital urban development - How large digital corporations shape the field of urban governance, (DIGI-GOV),” (C20/SC/14691212/DIGI-GOV).

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