Galloway’s Protocols

Galloway has a crucial contention: That protocol is how technological control exists after decentralisation. So far, we have considered the Internet’s network as an ecology. To me decentralisation has until now implied a certain level of anarchy. Last week’s Albert-Laszlo readings started to show that in fact a specific structure and certain rules of predictability emerge in the decentralised network. This reading did not imply that the system was entirely chaotic, but it also did not allude to the level of control through underlying protocols that Galloway suggests the DNS structure imposes. The idea of power laws in last week’s reading relates to Galloway’s idea of the distributed network in which each node is self-deterministic and can communicate how it chooses. However, Galloway goes further to define how this landscape is shaped – through shared protocols, such as language.

Galloway’s concept of the network is an institutional ecology. The “Achille’s heel” of the DNS structure is demonstrated in cases such as that of WikiLeaks. Separate countries and servers could stop providing the domain name server for the website and thus make it inaccessible. This case also demonstrates Galloway’s comparison between the powers of protocols in control societies and Foucault’s concept of the panopticon in regards to disciplinary societies. However, he also stresses that protological control is still an improvement on other forms of social control, because it eliminates hierarchy and thus is more democratic.