Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Technology · Theory

Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization

Is the Internet a vast arena of unrestricted communication and freely exchanged information or a regulated, highly structured virtual bureaucracy? In Protocol, Alexander Galloway argues that the founding principle of the Net is control, not freedom, and that the controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible. He does this by treating the computer as a textual medium that is based on a technological language, code. Code, he argues, can be subject to the same kind of cultural and literary analysis as any natural language; computer languages have their own syntax, grammar, communities, and cultures. Instead of relying on established theoretical approaches, Galloway finds a new way to write about digital media, drawing on his backgrounds in computer programming and critical theory. “Discipline-hopping is a necessity when it comes to complicated socio-technical topics like protocol,” he writes in the preface.

Galloway begins by examining the types of protocols that exist, including TCP/IP, DNS, and HTML. He then looks at examples of resistance and subversion—hackers, viruses, cyberfeminism, Internet art—which he views as emblematic of the larger transformations now taking place within digital culture. Written for a nontechnical audience, Protocol serves as a necessary counterpoint to the wildly utopian visions of the Net that were so widespread in earlier days.

Text and Image via MIT PRESS

Bio · Design · Digital Media · Education · Games/Play · Science · Technology

Played By Humans, Scored By Nature. EteRNA, an online game, helps build a new RNA warehouse

According to EteRNA: By playing EteRNA, you will participate in creating the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs. Your efforts will help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses. By interacting with thousands of players and learning from real experimental feedback, you will be pioneering a completely new way to do science. Join the global laboratory!

EteRNA is starting with simple shapes like “the finger” and “the cross” to make sure you can nail the fundamentals. And then we’ll be moving on to elaborate shapes like trees. And then molecules that switch folds when they sense a specific other piece of RNA. This might take a few weeks, or it might take a year — we want to make sure we can ace these exercises.
After that, we will embark on one of a few epic projects – perhaps we’ll make the first RNA random-access memory for a computer. Or switches that enables cells to fluoresce if they start expressing cancer genes. Or how about a nanomotor? Or a nanoLED display? There are lots of options, and we’ll let you propose your own and choose.

Finally, you’ll start seeing a few other kinds of puzzles popping up in later stages: The ability to play with RNAs in three dimensions. The ability to see natural RNAs from bacteria, viruses, and humans; and challenges to predict their properties. Stay tuned.

Play EteRNA