Protocol, Control, and Networks

I dunno really where to start with this. I mean, it was 25 pages of heavy network theory crossed with some serious nihilism, and calling in of some 70s philosophers. By all accounts this should be my thing.

Except I was far more interested in the Nihilism than the network theory. I mean, I just learned about Eugene Thacker’s In The Dust of This Planet, and now I’m far more into reading about how humans approach these theories in pop culture. Especially since the world seems to be eating itself into a ditch right now.

But here’s a stab at writing some things about this paper:

1) They give a good break down on how a protocol stack actually works. Which is nice, considering a lot of digital theory just appropriates technical terms rather badly.

2) The mapping of protocol to body stuff is always kind of a stretch for me. I mean I get it, they’re talking about the basics of biochemistry and what not as applied to biological systems and communication, as a parallel to TCP/IP stack. But its not quite the same.

3) Its nice to acknowledge that the various layers of the TCP/IP protocol stack don’t really care what the other layers are moving. As programmers and content makers, we operate mostly in the Application and sometimes Transport layer. The underside tho, doesn’t care. It could be moving around viruses, images, words…doesn’t matter, its just a bulk of bits that needs to get shuffled around. There’s something weirdly comforting about that. Or maybe its just me.

4) Biocomputing is kind of not a shot in the dark. For starters its limited in its algorithmic ability, and on top of it, its slow as hell. Its got a sexy name that inspires futuristic thinking, but I sort of just skipped over it.

5) I did enjoy when they started talking about topologies of networks. And how various networks and their various protocols can operate in the same space at the same time. It falls in line with various thoughts about The Internet, but also old internet, which is basically a multi-headed hydra that’s never really sure what all its bits are doing. You can see this socially reflected in groups like Anonymous, who feel schizophrenic due to their headless operation. But that leads into ideas about control…

You can not escape protocol

Protocol is control,and it is the underlying pin for networks to exist. It doesn’t matter if its centralized, decentralized, or distributed. Without the control wielded by protocol, you have no operation, without operation you have no network. In some ways, without it, you don’t have life in general. Control in a network is about the shaping of where things go, not necessarily disciplining what those things do.

6) So. If you want to rail on a protocol based system, you need to overflow it, or reshape it. Because you can’t break it down, and you can’t escape it.

Now apply that to life, and that’s sorta where the Nihilism comes in.