SOUNDS OF OUR ERA
The Data Centre
Standing in the middle of a data centre, deep in a Finnish forest, I am truly surrounded by technology. Thick corrugated tubes run across the ceiling above me and snake below my feet. Tangled wires explode from towering machines that reach at least a kilometre in every direction. There are endless little lights in a myriad of colours. Blinks of blue and green, white and red, yellow, purple, pink. It is simultaneously unruly and ordered: there's a sense and design to the space, but it's nonhuman. Nothing is linear, everything is everywhere.
Stood inside the data centre, I am shivering. I’m wearing 12 layers, and at least one thermal vest, but the cold finds its way through. The building has hundreds of fans, which whir aggressively, desperately trying to cool the internal systems of the machines they have been charged with protecting. If the machines get too hot then the whole system melts. These fans result in a gentle, but continual hum, broken regularly by scattered beeps - machines turning off and on, servers connecting and disconnecting. It’s an agitated buzz, never quite settling, impossible to relax into. After a while, I can’t tell if the shiver is cold or vigilance.
As I emerge back into the Finnish firs it's the sound that stays with me. It’s the sound the data centre puts out, but also feels like it’s the sound hidden deep within. A constant buzz of information, more and more and more. The data centre must keep on going, always, whirring, it’ll never stay still.
This is a sound of our era.