What Does the Cloud Look Like? A Designer Takes Us Inside.

The Eye
Slate’s design blog.
June 11 2014 10:21 AM

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Cloud  

Internet Machine by Timo Arnall is a short film that pulls back the curtain on the cloud.

Timo Arnall

The so-called cloud has always been a nebulous metaphor for that abstract place where our family photos and tax receipts and rough drafts invisibly hover until we summon them from thin air to our earth-bound screens.

But as Fast Company reports, Timo Arnall, creative director at BERG in London and research fellow at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design, has made a six-minute film that takes us inside the intricate real-world structures that manage, house, and transmit our digital lives.

“In this film I wanted to look beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud,’ ” Arnall writes on his website, “to investigate what the infrastructures of the Internet actually look like. It felt important to be able to see and hear the energy that goes into powering these machines, and the associated systems for securing, cooling and maintaining them.”

Yellow diesel-powered back-up generators keep the cloud humming along in the event of a power outage.

Timo Arnall


Internet Machine is being shown until Oct. 26 in an exhibition at Big Bang Data in Barcelona, Spain. Arnall says that the film documents one of the largest, most secure, and "fault-tolerant" data centers in the world, run by Telefonica in Alcalá, Spain. It’s a short story told with oddly captivating wide shots and deliberately paced zooms, set to a soundtrack of the ambient hum and buzz of rooms full of nothing but servers and routers, connected by labyrinthine corridors and concrete walls pierced with cables.

“In experiencing these machines at work, we start to understand that the Internet is not a weightless, immaterial, invisible cloud,” Arnall writes, “and instead to appreciate it as a very distinct physical, architectural and material system.”

Inside one of the largest data centers in the world, run by Telefonica in Alcalá, Spain.

Timo Arnall

Check out the film's trailer below:


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 3:53 PM Smash and Grab Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
Oct. 20 2014 5:39 PM Whole Foods Desperately Wants Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.