Reading Week 11

Galloway, Alexander R. Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization. The MIT Press, 2006. Print.

This reading was so dense! So instead of me trying to summarise the theories of decentralisation and protocol and it’s relation to the world wide web throughout it’s evolution, here’s some quotes from the text to do that for me:

‘The most extensive “computerized information management” system exist- ing today is the Internet. The Internet is a global distributed computer network.’

‘Today, the Internet is a global distributed network connecting billions of people around the world.’

‘To help understandtheconcept ofcomputer protocols,consider theanal- ogy ofthe highway system. Many different combinations of roads are avail- able to a person driving from point A to point B. However, en route one is compelled to stop at red lights, stay between the white lines, follow a rea- sonably direct path, and so on. These conventional rules that govern the set of possible behavior patterns within a heterogeneous system are what com- puter scientists call protocol. Thus, protocol is a technique for achieving vol- untary regulation within a contingent environment.’

‘It is common for contemporary critics to describe the Internet as an un-predictable mass of data rhizomatic and lacking central organisation… I argue in this book that protocol is how technological control exists after decentralisation.’

‘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.’

‘The processofconverting domain names to IP addresses iscalled resolu- ti on. At the top of this inverted tree are a handful of so-called “root” servers holding ultimate control and delegating lesser control to lower branches in the hierarchy.There are over a dozen root servers located around the world in places likeJapan and Europe,as well as in several U.S. locations.’

‘The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, describes the DNS system as the “one centralized Achilles’ heel by which [the Web] can all be brought down or controlled.”‘

‘Any networked relation will have multiple, nested protocols. To steal an insight from Marshall McLuhan, the content of every new protocol is always another protocol’

‘Protocol’s native landscape is the distributed network.’



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