Books and articles that we’re reading

Reading two of Alexander Galloway’s books, Protocol and The Exploit.  Both of them explore how control is maintained despite the decentralization of the web.


1 thought on “Books and articles that we’re reading

  1. So I’m reading this book because I’m on airplanes, etc., The Exploit, by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker and I’m having some brainwaves. It’s a really interesting book because it tries not to distinguish between different types of networks. Epidemics, the electronic grid and communication networks all have to function in the same way. Other network theorists assume the same thing, but Galloway and Thacker are making a political argument about control, so the tension between a communicative network and genetic networks and the corresponding tension between an electronically arranged social protests and recombinant DNA seems more obvious to me than to the authors. Which is why it’s interesting to me. For instance, biological networks “swarm.” Microbes, ants, bees all swarm. Do arguments swarm. Yeah. In the same way? I don’t think so. But it’s interesting to interrogate the differences in “swarming” even if the authors don’t.

    Galloway and Thacker focus a lot of protocols—the real ones (TCP/IP) and what they do with information, but also metaphorical ones (though I don’t think the authors see it as a metaphor, another interesting thing). So networks of viruses have “protocols” for sharing information. Right? What about communication networks? Is a genre a protocol? Or is it like a protocol? What about kairos—in a microbe or an argument? What makes the same protocol work in one environment and not in another? At one point in history and not another?

    At the same time, I’m reading David Bleich’s amazing manuscript, The Materiality of Language, which slam dunks Saussure, Chomsky, early Wittgenstein, and a host of others who treat language as if it didn’t really involve doing something with people at a particular time. So I’m attuned to the trope of writing about networks as if they are the unit of analysis, as if networks can be a “subject.” As I’m reading The Exploit, I understand that genetic information isn’t human language, but I’m a little uncomfortable about the absence of a sense of materiality until this passage: “Perhaps if there is one truism about the study of network, it is that networks are only networks when they are “live,” when they are enacted, embodied, or rendered operational” (62).

    Just thinking.

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