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Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization (Leonardo Books) Hardcover – April 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0262072472 ISBN-10: 0262072475
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Protocol...is a book on computer science written by someone who's not a computer scientist, and that's a good thing."
Gary Singh, Metro

"Galloway is one of the very few people who are equally well versed in poststructuralist cultural theory and computer programming."
Steven Shaviro, The Pinocchio Theory Weblog

"An engaging methodological hybrid of the Frankfurt School and UNIX for Dummies.... Galloway brings the uncool question of morality back into critical thinking."
Ed Halter, The Village Voice

"Expressing some startling new lines of thought with refreshingly straightforward clarity, Galloway reminds all of us why thinking about networks and their protocols is so relevant to our time. From FTP to fluxus or Deleuze to DNS, these are the connections that need to be made between the models competing to be our reality."
Douglas Rushkoff, author of Media Virus, Coercion, and Nothing Sacred

"A very valuable, very original, and very significant contribution to the field of media studies and cultural theory."
Tilman Baumgärtel, media critic, author of net.art and net.art 2.0—New Material towards Net Art

From the Inside Flap

"A very valuable, very original, and very significant contribution to the field of media studies and cultural theory."
--Tilman Baumgärtel, media critic, and author of *net.art* and *net.art 2.0 - New Material towards Net Art*

"Expressing some startling new lines of thought with refreshingly straightforward clarity, Galloway reminds all of us why thinking about networks and their protocols is so relevant to our time. From FTP to fluxus or Deleuze to DNS, these are the connections that need to be made between the models competing to be our reality."
--Douglas Rushkoff, author of *Media Virus*, *Coercion*, and *Nothing Sacred*

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Product Details

  • Series: Leonardo Books
  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262072475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262072472
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander R. Galloway is assistant professor in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. He is the author of Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Minnesota, 2006), Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, and The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Minnesota, 2007).

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Review Guy on April 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alexander Galloway seems to have something profound to say about networks but not the confidence to say it clearly. Galloway sets out to prove that "protocol" is to distributed postmodern networks (i.e. the Internet) what Foucault's "panopticon" was to modernist social hierarchies. Since Foucault is, for me, the best example of why postmodern 'theory' is still worth taking seriously, I got pretty excited about this book.

Galloway begins ambitiously, clearly stating his thesis (the book's subtitle), identifying his intellectual opponents (naive techno-libertarians), and situating his work within the literature (he invokes figures as diverse as Vannevar Bush and Gilles Deleuze). By page 65, the book seems really to be going somewhere, as Galloway walks us through the history of protocol, using TCP/IP and DNS as exemplars. The writing is technically crisp and hard-headed.

But just as I started to get really interested, Galloway seemed to back off his argument, retreating into vague pronouns and undefined terms. Derrida appeared briefly. There was some general derision of 'late capitalism.' I finally got lost on his discussion of Sergei Eisenstein's attempt to adapt Das Kapital for the movie screen ("What does this have to do with networks?" I thought.)

In the end, I never figured out what Galloway meant by "protocological control." It was not clear which (if any) agent does the controlling, what the limits of protocological control are, or how we could exercise control if we wanted to. I was left with the distinct impression that protocological control amounts to the simple requirement that nodes on a network speak a common language. It's hard to see this as particularly insidious, or even politically relevant. There may be more going on here, but I can't find it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jon Ippolito on June 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Galloway is a triple threat: he's fluent in the esoteric dialects of poststructuralist theory, Internet geekspeak, and network aesthetics. There are plenty of books that try to tackle the art and politics of the Internet age from one of these angles, and a handful that try two--but if you're looking for a three-dimensional treatment of the subject, this is the book for you.

Protocol's subtitle, How Control Exists after Decentralization, gives away Galloway's intention in writing this book, which is to steer a path between the "media are chains" intonations of broadcast media critics and the "networks make us free" hype of Internet evangelists. The fact that he's trying to erect a new theory in this uncharted territory makes this book a valuable contribution to the field.

Sometimes I think he loses his path along the way, as when he veers afield from his focus on networks to apply his ideas to an abstract "biopolitics" or to propose an aesthetic interpretation of Marx. None of these efforts is misguided or irrelevant, and academics with heads in the clouds will probably love these parts. Personally, however, I find Protocol most useful not when it connects one theory to another, but when it connects a theory to a specific technical specification. When Galloway pulls A Thousand Plateaus of the shelf to reveal the politics underlying the Internet's fundamental TCP/IP protocols, he's not just showing off his booklearning--he's upgrading Deleuze and Guattari's theory for use in the field, so we can apply their radical philosophy to the email and chat applications we design and deploy.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Great book, terrible kindle version. Tried to use in class with mixed hard copy/ebooks. Kindle version has no page numbers, out of place graphics, out of order text. Ended up having to buy hard copy anyway. Do not buy kindle version for schoolwork.
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