User:Lucia Dossin/Reading Writing Research Methodologies/Assignment 3/Notes

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Created 17:35, 30 October 2013‎

Notes on Alexander Galloway's Protocol – Introduction chapter

“Every society has its diagram(s).” - GILLES DELEUZE, Foucault

Our society's diagram, currently, is the distributed network diagram, in which the nodes are interconnected and there's no hierarchical structure. The technology – or the machine - of our society is the digital computer. The management style is protocol. The combination of the three define a new apparatus of control.

How would control exist after decentralization?

Sovereign societies (classical era) -> 'centralized power, control existed as an extension of the word and deed of the master, assisted by violence and other coercive factors'. Simple machines (clocks, pulleys).

Disciplinary societies (modern era) -> violence could be replaced with 'more bureaucratic forms of command and control'. Thermodynamic machines.

'Before computerized information management, the heart of institutional command and control was easy to locate' -> power monuments.

The Internet has its roots in American academic and military culture of the 50's/60's, in reaction to Soviet Sputnik launch (late 50's). By distributing the command to a network instead of having all command and control centralized in one or a few places, in case of a nuclear attack targeting those command nodes, the impact would be less damaging.

'Protocol is a set of recommendations and rules that outline technical standards.' This concept is at the core of networked computing. But protocol is not a new word. 'Prior to its usage in computing, protocol referred to any type of correct behavior within a specific system of conventions.'

There is a 'misconception that the Internet is chaotic rather than highly controlled'. Galloway suggests that what contributes to this misconception is that 'protocol is based on a contradiction between two opposing machines: one machine distributes control into autonomous locales, the other machine focuses control into rigidly defined hierarchies'.

The protocol that allows for this 'chaos', the horizontal, peer-to-peer communication is TCP/IP. It allows any computer to communicate with another computer in the network.

The protocol behind the hierarchical structure of the Internet is DNS, 'a large decentralized database that maps networks addresses to network names'.

'All DNS information is controlled in a hierarchical, inverted-tree structure. Ironically, then, nearly all Web traffic must submit to a hierarchical structure (DNS) to gain access to the anarchic and radically horizontal structure of the Internet.'

'Protocological control also affects the functioning of bodies within social space'.[...]'Technologies like biometrics and statistical analysis fall into the category of biopolitics.'

“The old power of death that symbolized sovereign power was now carefully supplanted by the administration of bodies and the calculated management of life” (Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, p. 138-140

'Protocol is to control societies as the panopticon is to disciplinary societies.' Protocol may be more democratic in comparison to the panopticon, as it allows for direct communication and can eliminate hierarchy, 'it still very much structured around command and control'.

Deleuze: the site of biopower is also a site of resistance.

'Protocol is not bad, protocol is dangerous.'

'To refuse protocol is not to reject today's technologies but to direct them towards an ”emancipated media” created by active social actors rather than passive users.'

History may be divided into certain broad phases. The late 20th century is part of a certain phase which Galloway refers to as the postmodern or digital age.

'There have been three fundamental moments in capitalism, each one marking a dialetical expansion over the previous stage. These are market capitalism, the monopoly stage of imperialism, and our own, wrongly called postindustrial, but what might be better termed multinational capital' (Jameson, Postmodernism, p.35)

Manuel Castells (in The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture) shows that today's sociopolitical space is dominated not by robust national economies and core industrial sectors but by “interactive networks” and “flexible accumulation”.[...]'Corporate business structures have changed in the last several decades from a decentralized “vertical” corporatism to a more distributes “horizontal” meshwork'.

'A distributed architecture is precisely which makes protocological control/imperial control of the network so easy. In fact, the various Internet protocols mandate that control may only be derived from such a distributed architecture.' Galloway on Hardt and Negri's Empire.