I think looking at text messaging with reference to Galloway’s article “Allegories of Control” about the algorithms of video games might provide some interesting connections, as well as his article on protocol. Both Rafael and Rheingold express a sort of wonderment at the motor memorization possessed by the new generations of cellular phone texters. Rafael: …“[others] tap away with one hand without even looking at [their] [phone.” Rheingold: “Like many of her friends she could compose a message with her thumb without looking at it.”
This strikes a direct chord with Galloway’s statement about console video games, “in which intricate combinations of buttons must be executed with precise timing to accomplish something in the game.”
Grandmothers don’t text message. My grandmother has trouble reading the buttons on her cellular phone, and if she can read them she often has trouble hitting them only once, or one at a time. Motor skills aside, what other barriers are there? Grandmothers also don’t play videogames. Of course there are other factors in this generational divide, but do the physical requirements to ‘beat’ or ‘use’ the algorithm of the games and the cellular phones target younger audiences?
Rheingold quotes DoCoMo’s Takeshi Natsuno as saying mobile phones are “…useless unless you know the right telephone number. The distribution of data via phones, however, would make it possible for users to search for a restaurant or make a dinner reservation. They could reserve a train or airplane ticket….Ads for companies would no longer be unnecessary information, but essential information that users could be charged for accessing.” This almost sounds like a desire to do away with protocol on the user’s side. Amazon.com offers book selections they think you might like based on your previous purchases. They’re doing away with the protocol of the system that requires you to type in titles to search. Clothing retailers would love it if RFID tags were sewn into clothes. Then when I walked into a store the sales associate could approach me, scan me, and inform me that there is a new shipment in of the briefs I’m wearing. Instead of looking through the racks and shelves, the built environment of the store’s protocol, the desire is to have everything done for consumer, down to the decision of what to buy.
I guess what I’m trying to decipher here what the absence of protocol in a cellular phone, or any technology, might mean. The presence of protocol signals to some extent that we are operating within a system of rules, such as the internet http. These rules must be understood, but sometimes they can be broken. The absence of protocol as described above is designed to streamline the user’s experience, but who is doing the designing if the user isn’t? So perhaps protocol is a signifier of interface?
Terrorist networks don’t have their own servers. They operate within commercial routes, although they may be fighting against the flow, they’re in the same river of information as everyone else. The same is true of text messagers, or organizing tools like TxtMob. I’d love to find an exception, but I don’t know of any homemade, D.I.Y. mobile phones or transmission towers. There is some software hacking of cellular phones, and of course computers, but where’s the alternative Internet? Where are the underground cellular phone networks, like the pirate radio station operators working with homemade transmitters? At the level of hardware protocol, it seems that everyone is currently following suit.