Alexander Galloway is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. He is a founding member of the software collective RSG and creator of the Carnivore and Kriegspiel projects. He received his B.A. from the MCM program at Brown, and a Ph.D. in Literature from Duke. His scholarly interests, as listed on his website, include: critical theory, semiotics, aesthetics, digital media, networks, software, new media art, games, and film.
Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization Edit
Protocol may sprawl across its chapters, but it plays one unrelenting riff: protocols are the heralds of distributed systems, distinctly in opposition to the centralized, hierarchical beauracracies that often deal with or delimit them, and rife with the politics of possibility. Opposing a trend in media studies that reads the internet as a free-for-all with no one in control, Galloway points out that the internet is free precisely because it is so tightly controlled, moderated by protocols (largely established via RFCs) that enable free participation by all. Protocols may keep out those who won't play ("no protocol, no connection") but they nonetheless gaurentee expediancy of access once you're in. Governments that try to occlude access to the Web operate in opposition to protocol, which privileges transparency as a core value.
Galloway envisions the protocol as the next stage/up coming/already here? of management (it corresponds to the diagram of the distributed network and the technology of the digital computer), the heir to the disciplinary sovereign societies of Foucault and the decentralized beaucratic societies Deleuze writes of (these two form Galloway's chief theoretical influences in the text). Galloway provides a brief yet luminous explanation of the difference between centralized (panopticon), decentralized (subway system), and distributed networks (rhizome--no hubs) (11).
In its technical sense, a protocol is "a set of recommendations and rules that outline specific technical standards (6) [...] a technique for achieving voluntary regulation within a contingent environment (7). They are "vetted out between negotiating parties and then materialized in the real world by large populations" (7). Protocols, while coded, are certainly material (hence Bogost and Montfort consider this text a platform study). Protocols embody of contradiction between "two opposing machines: One machine radically distributies control into autonomous locales, the other machines focuses control into rigidly defined hierarchies" (8). This is best expression in the tension between TCP/IP (flexible, distributed) and DNS (rigid, hierarchical) protocols (his first chapter is a rather brilliant close read of these physical media).
Galloway argues that protocol is the management style of Foucault's biopolitics, but Deleuze does this one better by envisioning resistant within the protocological field. Galloway's last section involves Protocol Futures, examining Hacking, Tactile Media and Internet Art as possible sites for advances in protocol. Hackers, for example, "push protocol into a state of hypertrophy, hoping to come out the other side. So in a sense, hackers are created by protocol, but in another, hackers are protocological actors par excellence" (158). Hackers embody a work of autonomous mobile agents--(No longer "workers of the world unite, but workers of the world fan out") best identified as nomads who join into tiger teams to solve problems, then disband. This protocological style is the only response to an enemy who is no longer clearly within sight (160-161).
"Code is the only language that is executable" (165)
"For if technology is proprietary it ceases to be protocological" (172)
Tacticle media exploit flaws in protocological and proprietary environment. Viruses occur in direct proportion to a software's saturation in the market