Appendix 11 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Governance NOI Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.
Excerpted from Protocol: how control exists after decentralization, by Alexander Galloway, MIT Press, 2004. Page 245-246. (I first mentioned book on my blog in 2005)
Protocol is that machine, that massive control apparatus that guides distributed networks, creates cultural objects and engenders life forms.
This is an excerpt of about 1/2 of the authors summarizing moments selected from previous chapters:
- Protocol is a universalism achieved through negotiation, meaning that in the future protocol can and will be different.
- The goal of protocol is totality. It must accept everything, not matter what source, sender, or destination. It consumes diversity, aiming instead for university.
- Internet protocols allow for inter-operation between computers.
- Protocol is a language that regulates flow, directs netspace, codes relationships, and connects life forms. It is etiquette for autonomous agents.
- Protocol’s virtues include robustness, contingency, inter-operability, flexibility, heterogeneity, an pantheism.
- Protocol is a type of controlling logic that operates largely outside institutional, government and corporate power.
- Protocol is a system of distributed management that facilitates peer-to-peer relationships between autonomous entities.
- Protocol is synonymous with possibility.
Protocol then becomes more and more coextensive with humanity’s productive forces, and ultimately becomes the blueprint for humanity’s inner-most desires about the world and how it ought to be lived.
This makes protocol dangerous – ….A colleague Patrick Feng said recently: “Creating core protocols is something akin to constitutional law,” meaning that protocols create the core set of rules from which all other decisions descend. And like Supreme Court justices having control over the interpretation of the American Constitution, whoever has power over the creation of such protocols wields power over a very broad area indeed. In this sense protocols is dangerous.
It is important to remember that the technical is always political, that network architecture is politics. So protocol necessarily involves a complex interrelation of political questions, some progressive some reactionary. In many ways protocol is a dramatic move forward but in other ways it reinstates systems of social and technical control that are deserving of critical analysis.
This post is part of Kaliya’s NSTIC Governance NOI Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.
This is the section before: Who is Harmed by a “Real Names” Policy?