Alexander Galloway’s Protocol: An Argument Summary

alexander galloway protocolIn Protocol Alexander Galloway argues that the Internet is not the “free-for-all of information” that many people perceive it to be, rather it is a controlled network.

As Eugene Thacker outlines in the book’s forward, “Information does flow, but in a highly regulated manner.” By examining the network not as a metaphor, or as a theory, but as a technical diagram by which digital data is managed, Galloway illustrates how control can exist after decentralization.

“This book is about a diagram, a technology, and a management style”, explains Galloway.

The diagram is the distributed network, the technology is the digital computer and the management style is the protocol. These three come together to define the “computerized information management” system that is the Internet.

Galloway reminds us that “Protocol is a solution to the problem of hierarchy.” It is how a seemingly “out of control” technology can “function so flawlessly”. It is that “massive control apparatus that guides distributed networks, creates cultural objects, and engenders life forms”. In other words, as Galloway emphasizes, Protocol is how control exists after decentralization.

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