Posted by: Nancy | June 19, 2009

At the heart of the data center…

I guess it’s stating the obvious: Web technology is nearly ubiquitous now. It’s at critical mass, it’s now like electricity — an expected, necessary and nearly overlooked machinery that we depend on for our daily business, entertainment, social connections and emotional release.

Last week’s New York Times Magazine Architecture Issue describes the infrastructure of our web technology beautifully — see Datatecture by Tom Vanderbilt. As he puts it: “Much of the daily material of our lives is now dematerialized and outsourced to a far-flung, unseen network.”

His article illustrates the underpinnings of the web and its many services: data centers in enormous warehouses, rows of high-power giant Caterpillar generators, miles of cabling between tens of thousands of servers, redundant network feeds. Then there’s the meta-infrastructure: air conditioning to keep the machines at optimal temperature, security cameras and sensors everywhere, plenty of electricity and backup batteries.

The article reminded me of any of a dozen data centers I’ve seen — and forgotten. I don’t think about all that infrastructure. Instead, I just Tweet, update Facebook/MySpace pages, participate in meet-ups, publish invitations, email, text, IM, upload and geotag photos and videos, build LinkedIn networks, rate Digg/Delicious/StumbleUpon sites, share bookmarks, star favorites, blog, collaborate on wikis, engage virtually in Second Life, podcast, poll, videoblog and soon, Wave continuously. Whew!

In all that technologically enabled activity, I wonder if sometimes we forget what’s at the heart of it all.

Communicating.

Telling a story. Sharing information. Providing news. Questioning/Answering. Selling a service. Defining a brand. Helping a customer. Offering feedback. Laughing. Pondering. Agitating. Persuading. Provoking. Encouraging. Challenging. Sometimes listening, sometimes striking a light in the darkness. All to make a connection with another human.

As communicators, all this infrastructure and the untold applications are there for us.

In my perspective, it’s a little humbling and a lot exciting. It’s why I care about technology, why I love experimenting with and learning it all — it’s all about making connections and communicating in new ways. What could be more fun?

(Cross posted on KCIABC Technology site.)

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