Data Centres and the Governance of Labour and Territory

Project Overview

Without data centres, today’s world stops. Flights are grounded, Wall Street closes, and the internet grinds to a halt. Data centres accommodate computer and network systems that store, process and transfer digital information in high volume and at high speeds. These infrastructures are the core components of a rapidly expanding but rarely discussed digital storage and management industry that has become critical to our global economy and society.

This project will explore the social, economic, cultural and political implications of data centres. Focusing on data centres in Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney, the research aims to advance understandings of how these facilities are contributing to, challenging and transforming ways of living and working in Asia.

The design and function of data centres raise concerns relating to energy and the environment, consumer versus corporate rights, as well as new methods for the production and control of knowledge. Probing these concerns will open new circuits of knowledge exchange and supply a means of charting changing forms of economic, social and political power.

The research will use digital methods to:

  1. Build innovative platforms for broadening debates and research practices concerning digital culture, labour and globalisation, and;
  2. Provide a software application to produce knowledge about these facilities, particularly as regards their technical operations, social and cultural effects, and the legal and political geography of data.

Image of silver metal


Australian Research Council (opens in a new window), Discovery Project



Research Team

  • Brett Neilson, Institute for Culture and Society
  • Ned Rossiter, Institute for Culture and Society
  • Tanya Notley, School of Humanities and Communication Arts and the Institute for Culture and Society
  • Laikwan Pang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Stefano Harney, Singapore Management University
  • Sandro Mezzadra, University of Bologna
  • Anna Reading, King’s College London
  • Florian Sprenger, Goethe University Frankfurt

» Fact sheet (opens in a new window)(PDF,267KB)


Professor Brett Neilson: in a new window).

Project website (opens in a new window)

Photo: 'DSCF1702'(opens in a new window), by NeoSpire, Flickr Creative Commons License 2.0.