The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Electronic Mediations)

The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Electronic Mediations)

Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0816650446

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“The Exploit is that rare thing: a book with a clear grasp of how networks operate that also understands the political implications of this emerging form of power. It cuts through the nonsense about how 'free' and 'democratic' networks supposedly are, and it offers a rich analysis of how network protocols create a new kind of control. Essential reading for all theorists, artists, activists, techheads, and hackers of the Net.” —McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto


The network has become the core organizational structure for postmodern politics, culture, and life, replacing the modern era’s hierarchical systems. From peer-to-peer file sharing and massive multiplayer online games to contagion vectors of digital or biological viruses and global affiliations of terrorist organizations, the network form has become so invasive that nearly every aspect of contemporary society can be located within it.


Borrowing their title from the hacker term for a program that takes advantage of a flaw in a network system, Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker challenge the widespread assumption that networks are inherently egalitarian. Instead, they contend that there exist new modes of control entirely native to networks, modes that are at once highly centralized and dispersed, corporate and subversive.


In this provocative book-length essay, Galloway and Thacker argue that a whole new topology must be invented to resist and reshape the network form, one that is as asymmetrical in relationship to networks as the network is in relation to hierarchy.


Alexander R. Galloway is associate professor of culture and communications at New York University and the author of Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Minnesota, 2006) and Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization.


Eugene Thacker is associate professor of new media at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the author of Biomedia (Minnesota, 2004) and The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture.

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contain a section of code—a “mutation engine”—whose task is to continuously modify its signature code, thereby evading or at least confusing antivirus software. They are, arguably, examples of artificial life.64 Viruses such as the polymorphic computer viruses are defined by their ability to replicate their difference. They exploit the network. That is, they are able to change themselves at the same time that they replicate and distribute themselves. In this case, computer viruses are defined by

universals for life. This means that the counterprotocols of current networks will be pliant and vigorous where existing protocols are flexible and robust. We’re tired of being flexible. Being pliant means something else, something vital and positive. Or perhaps “superpliant” would be a better term, following Deleuze’s use of the word in the appendix to his book on Foucault.67 Counterprotocols will attend to the tensions and contradictions within such systems, such as the contradiction between

values of Islamic fundamentalism, or U.S. arrogance, produced within a certain historical context, lead to or justify violent actions. However, there is another view that focuses on the architecture of power, not just on its ideological content. The role that communications and information networks have played in international terrorism and the “war on terror” has meant that media have now become a core component of war and political conflict. One result of this view is that media can be seen to

reverse. For instance, from this viewpoint the networks of FedEx or AT&T are arguably more important than that of the United States in terms of global economies, communication, and consumerism. This argument— what we might call a determinist argument— states that to understand the political situation, it is necessary to understand 10 Prolegomenon the material and technical infrastructures that provide the context for political conflict (we note this is not yet a causal argument). Consider

Cryptography (the Nominalist Argument) Part I. Nodes 23 Technology (or Theory)—Theory (or Technology)—Protocol in Computer Networks—Protocol in Biological Networks— An Encoded Life— Toward a Political Ontology of Networks— The Defacement of Enmity—Biopolitics and Protocol— LifeResistance— The Exploit—Counterprotocol Part II. Edges The Datum of Cura I—The Datum of Cura II—Sovereignty and Biology I— Sovereignty and Biology II—Abandoning the Body Politic— The Ghost in the Network—Birth of the

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