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Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization (Leonardo Book Series) [Paperback]

by Alexander R. Galloway
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 17, 2006 0262572338 978-0262572330

Is the Internet a vast arena of unrestricted communication and freely exchanged information or a regulated, highly structured virtual bureaucracy? In Protocol, Alexander Galloway argues that the founding principle of the Net is control, not freedom, and that the controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible. He does this by treating the computer as a textual medium that is based on a technological language, code. Code, he argues, can be subject to the same kind of cultural and literary analysis as any natural language; computer languages have their own syntax, grammar, communities, and cultures. Instead of relying on established theoretical approaches, Galloway finds a new way to write about digital media, drawing on his backgrounds in computer programming and critical theory. "Discipline-hopping is a necessity when it comes to complicated socio-technical topics like protocol," he writes in the preface.Galloway begins by examining the types of protocols that exist, including TCP/IP, DNS, and HTML. He then looks at examples of resistance and subversion -- hackers, viruses, cyberfeminism, Internet art -- which he views as emblematic of the larger transformations now taking place within digital culture. Written for a nontechnical audience, Protocol serves as a necessary counterpoint to the wildly utopian visions of the Net that were so widespread in earlier days.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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*



"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



"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



"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

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* --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Series: Leonardo Book Series
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262572338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262572330
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,164 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

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DNS Error or Server Not Found 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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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Computer Science from a Liberal Arts View. June 23, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Some of the most interesting work being done today is a result of the cross fertilization of intellectual fields. While this is somewhat of a computer scienct book about the protocols of the internet, the author is a professor of Media Ecology. When he talks of the Internet and its protocols it's almost as if he is using different words.
It has long been a contention of mine that the Internet, both the world wide web and e-mail needs to be view as a transition in media not unlike that brought about by Gutenberg. Here the Internet and its interactions with both people and machines is analyzed like other media. What is the impact on society of a computer virus? How does this differ from the impact of the AIDS virus? And is the computer virus the problem or the weakness of the underlying programs - after all, most viruses use weaknesses in Microsoft Outlook to spread themselves.
We are at a time when the internet is changing our lives. It's good to see that people other than just technologists are looking at where we are going.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Computer Science from a Liberal Arts view. June 23, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Some of the most interesting work being done today is a result of the cross fertilization of intellectual fields. While this is somewhat of a computer scienct book about the protocols of the internet, the author is a professor of Media Ecology. When he talks of the Internet and its protocols it's almost as if he is using different words.
It has long been a contention of mine that the Internet, both the world wide web and e-mail needs to be view as a transition in media not unlike that brought about by Gutenberg. Here the Internet and its interactions with both people and machines is analyzed like other media. What is the impact on society of a computer virus? How does this differ from the impact of the AIDS virus? And is the computer virus the problem or the weakness of the underlying programs - after all, most viruses use weaknesses in Microsoft Outlook to spread themselves.
We are at a time when the internet is changing our lives. It's good to see that people other than just technologists are looking at where we are going.
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