Jayne Verkerk

Jayn's doctoral thesis explores how people think about and experience cloud computing.

Jayn Verkerk PhD candidate in design

Jayn Verkerk’s doctoral thesis explores how people think about and experience cloud computing, in particular, the gap between users’ experience of the metaphorical cloud and the image that cloud computing companies present to the world.

“I find it curious that the poetic metaphor of a cloud is used to describe computer data storage,” explains Jayn.

“The cloud computing industry presents an image of a benign cloud as an infinite resource without impact, yet it has a sizeable environmental footprint, and data surveillance is enabled through the cloud. Users state that they don’t understand or trust the cloud, yet they still use it. Because people perceive the cloud as something ‘up there’, they tend to dissociate from thinking about the physicality of it.”

To investigate how people perceived, experienced, and understood cloud computing, Jayn used visual narrative methodology and a participatory approach, asking people questions about their views of the cloud.

“I found that the black-boxed technology of cloud computing and the cloud metaphor influence the image users have. I developed artefacts that are interpretations of participants’ ideas, incorporating fibre optic lights, smoke, video, and optical illusions. The physical artefacts provided more in-depth, critical responses that defined an image of cloud computing that is both wondrous and creepy.”

Undertaking research for her PhD has allowed Jayn to focus on the things she finds interesting and given her the freedom to explore them intensively.

“It has given me more confidence in my own thinking. Doing a PhD is challenging and stimulating mentally as well as personally, but I have learnt that at the University you can be relatively free to explore whatever you are curious about, as long as you ground your ideas academically.”