Protocolling the scripted spaces of the world behind the interface ..

There are already ongoing discussions/mentionings, … about the recently published book ‘Protocol’ of A.Galloway on lists like nettime and now also reviews and thoughts start to appear. I do not want to add too much here, just quote from a reasonable review at village voice to give some impression on what I in general think an interesting subject, eventhough it might not be covered in every aspect yet …


First conceived as a communications system designed to withstand nuclear attacks on American cities, the Internet took shape as a distributed network, a radically dispersed organizational form based on multiple routes without central hubs, something he likens to both the interstate highway system and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s branching rhizome model, “a horizontal meshwork,” Galloway writes, linking “many autonomous nodes together in a manner neither linear nor hierarchical.” But in Galloway’s view, the Net’s non-hierarchy should not be mistaken for uninhibited freedom. Rather, control exists within the very nature of the Internet protocols, the universally recognized technical standards and shared languages (HTTP, TCP/IP, HTML) that allow information to be shared successfully-creating “a political conundrum that involves the acceptance of universal standardization in order to facilitate the ultimate goal of a freer and more democratic medium.”

“Protocol is a language that regulates flow, directs netspace, codes relationships, and connects life forms,” Galloway writes. “It is etiquette for autonomous agents.” As a language, albeit one composed of computer code, protocol can thus become the object of critical thinking as much as any text-conveniently for Galloway, whose background is primarily in literary studies, though he has worked as a systems administrator and done some programming. “The project basically grew out of my dissatisfaction with all of the dotcom-era books about the Internet,” Galloway told the Voice. “There was this idea that the Internet was at its core a kind of chaotic, uncontrollable technology. And I thought to myself, how could that be the case? Why does it work so well, why is it so bug-free, how is it able to spread globally so quickly? I thought there must be a high level of organization and control at the root of the technology, but that might just be a different kind of control than people are used to seeing.” He learned more about the workings of Internet protocols through developing Carnivore PE as part of programmer/artist collective Radical Software Group. This award-winning project serves as a “personal edition” of FBI software Carnivore, an online wiretap that snoops on data traffic. Both Carnivore PE and Protocol likewise explore how boundaries between online and offline control systems may prove irrelevant. Galloway argues that the logic of protocol extends to biological and social structures as well, with examples like the genome, the VHS/Beta market wars, the actions of hackers and terrorists, and the self-referentially protocological new-media artists like Jodi.org. But Galloway stresses that he’s not merely making an analogy: “Protocol is materially immanent,” he writes, and as such, “protocols generally resist interpretation.”
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