When we talk about the Personal Cloud in the year 2012, it’s easiest to talk about the things it can offer us right now, how it can replace our hard-drive or how it can replace our iPod (kinda/sorta the same thing). You risk having a sort of view of the cloud in chunks, and less of a (very) big picture that surrounds the entirety of computing from its inception.
The internet has been a first-taste of networked society, where data and information surround us as another layer of atmosphere, whether that information is our own or the increasingly vast pool of shared knowledge. Once the cloud is maximally adopted, and all of the disparate notions of it are united, the idea of cloud-as-hard-drive replacement will be as quaint as the idea that the internet is some place where nerds can chat in code on message-boards.
So, in a very real way, the cloud means something, as opposed to just being something with immediate utilitarian value (which it does, and I’m glad to utilize). It’s a technology and will continue to be talked about in technology terms, and that’s fine, but it’s also a wide-reaching concept.
To perhaps exaggerate just a little: writing is not something we consider a technology, but a much broader shift in how we live and communicate. Is it all that unreasonable to imagine that freely flowing knowledge/data/whatever radiating to every spot on the globe is a shift just as big? And as a thing beyond being just a technology, the cloud has uses we haven’t even considered yet, which is very exciting.
The cloud, in its potentially unlimited reach, also points better than anything to the likewise vast inequities in computing access and internet access. We are, of course, getting ahead of ourselves when we talk about “infospheres” because that implies it touches everything, when we all should know well enough that more of the world is unconnected (by wire, to say little of 4G towers) than it is connected, whether that’s a function of poverty or living in a place that just doesn’t get reception. Perhaps in attempting to lay a data cloud over the planet, we’ll soon be able to see the holes in it even better.