Life in the Shadow of Protocol

Deterritorial Investigations

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I’ve been reading Alexander Galloway’s excellent Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization, which explores what he terms the “protocological” apparatuses of control, or the invisible mechanisms of power that hide behind the horizontally organized distributed networks that define the workings of the post-Fordist information economy. The ‘protocol’ in his term is the combination of the internet’s Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP in shorthand, and the DNS. The TCP/IP model (also called the “DoD model because of its initial development by DARPA) is by virtue of its architecture borderline anarchic; TCP and IP “work together to establish connections and move data packets effectively through those connections… any computer on the network can talk to any other computer, resulting in a nonhierarchical, peer-to-peer relationship.”1 The DNS, by contrast, is fundamentally hierarchical: while it exists as a “decentralized database,” its “maps network addresses to network names,” or the binding of…

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