HTNM Lecture — Jennifer Holt, “Cloud Policy”


For those not able to attend, here is Jennifer Holt’s lecture now online.


Also available in audio format for download:

Last Thursday, October 2nd, Professor Jennifer Holt of UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Film and Media Studies got the fourth annual History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series started with a bang. As we sat in the Geballe Room in Stephens Hall at UC Berkeley, the net neutrality hearings in Washington raged on, deciding the future of open access internet and the course of democracy in a networked age. These are certainly the stakes that underwrote Professor Holt’s talk, entitled “Cloud Policy: Connected Viewing, Data Security, and the Future of Media Regulation,” but the majority of the lecture took a step back, introducing the audience to the complex discursive and infrastructural fields within which ‘the cloud’ circulates. Taking us into the aesthetic worlds of the data center, from the vast horizons of the U.S. heartland, to the snowy underground bunkers of Sweden, Holt explored the paradoxical connections between transparency and concealment in the recent visualizations of the infrastructure undertaken by places like Google and Bahnhof. She then went on to look at more statistical data, like the environmental impacts of such data centers, transitioning at a certain point into surveillance and policy issues, like the rise of Identity Service Providers (we think of them as social media platforms) and the viability of a global policy sphere. Covering a lot of territory in short amount of time and bridging gaps between lawyers, economists, artists, policymakers and media critics along the way, Holt’s talk foregrounded their—OUR—shared investments in distribution governance.

If you couldn’t make it out last Thursday, make sure to join us for the second talk of the series on Thursday, November 13th at 5:00pm in the BCNM Commons when Professor Fred Turner from Stanford University’s Department of Communication will present “Cold War Multimedia.”

Check out the slideshow below for photos from the event, and stay tuned for the video and audio podcasts!


The phenomenon of “connected viewing” is creating a revolution in how our media is created, circulated, and consumed. However, the functionality of this new multi-platform, socially-networked digital entertainment experience is heavily dependent on “the cloud” and its attendant infrastructure, such as data centers and server farms across the globe. Further, as digital content distribution and engagement becomes increasingly reliant on streaming platforms, remote servers, and access to viewers’ personal preferences, the issues of privacy and data security have become critical for producers, distributors, and consumers of cloud-based media. This presentation will look at some recent developments in how “cloud policy” is being formulated to protect and police data that is stored remotely and ultimately streamed, downloaded, and/or shared across broadband networks and digital platforms. The global contours of cloud storage have only made this more challenging, given the gaps and fissures in international data jurisdiction, regulating third party hosts, and the difficulties defining “personal information” across international boundaries. Additionally, the increasing data protections instituted by various European initiatives which aim to create “national clouds,” and the growing presence of Identity Service Providers (IdPs) in the digital ecosystem have introduced further chaos into an already unruly policy landscape. In our current era of data-driven digital content distribution, this lack of universal legal standards for a global digital ecosystem will have significant impact on consumer access, data flow, and the privacy/security of our information. It is in these details where we can begin to connect the intricacies of “cloud policy” to our future designs on a vibrant media culture, a healthy democratic commons, and well-informed, secure citizenry.

Jennifer Holt is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Director of the Media Industries Project at the Carsey-Wolf Center. She is the author of Empires of Entertainment and co-editor of Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method (2009); Connected Viewing: Selling, Sharing, and Streaming Media in the Digital Era (2013); and Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television (2014). Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including Cinema Journal, Jump Cut, Moving Data and How to Watch Television. Her current research explores media policy as it relates to cloud infrastructure, Internet governance, and digital distribution.

The History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series brings to campus leading humanities scholars working on issues of media transition and technological emergence. The series promotes new, interdisciplinary approaches to questions about the uses, meanings, causes, and effects of rapid or dramatic shifts in techno-infrastructure, information management, and forms of mediated expression. Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, this event is free and open to the public.