A Hacker’s Utopia — The Circle as the Ultimate Standardized Protocol?

Galloway notes that the very nature of resistance has changed as a result of the protocological era. The enormous and far reaching success of technology—the totality of protocol standardization and strategic goal of openness—turn it into a force the Galloway likens to gravity. New forms of resistance seek to impress an exaggerating complexity (a hypertrophy) , where by power and resistance to power become indistinguishable.

Enter: The Circle. I think that it is at this point concerning power that Dave Egger’s book comes into play. The Circle is essentially a hypertrophic multinational (somehow that term feels displaced here given the view of the capitalist world becoming a distributive network) corporation. There are nurmerous passages to choose from that illustrate my next point(s) but this one opens the conversation concerning Galloway’s utopic hackers and the problem of labor that their “utopia” creates if taken to the extent of the Circle:

“Stenton  professionalized our idealism, monetized our utopia. He’s the one who saw the connection between our work and politics, and between politics and control. Public-private leads to private-private, and soon you have the circle running most or even all government services, with incredible private-sector efficiency and an insatiable appetite. Everyone becomes a citizen of the Circle.” (489)

When I read this explanation from Ty I was frustrated. My response was of course. Egger’s had been shoveling this onto the past 250 pages at least. Nonetheless, it is the point in the novel that I my mind jumped into the logic of Galloway’s Protocol.

Social software—or in the case of the Circle, all software, as it has all be made fundamentally social— is cast as liberating, democratizing, and so on, which it undeniably is, but more important is the fact that today we are ushering in a whole new system of informatic value extraction and exploitation. The web is, in essence, the world’s largest sweat shop. The phenomenon is evident across the spectrum of web technologies, but also in the biological realm as life itself has emerged front and center as the central locus of valorization and exploitation. In this sense companies like Google and Monsanto (a hundreds others) are essentially trying to mine data from individual’s daily actions. Think even of the Page Rank algorithum, which I understand to be relatively simple when it comes to such things, which greatly shapes (perhaps still unknown to some) the way we are made to digest information on the internet. They both are leveraging the ability for life to self-valorize. Of course anyone familiar with the modern era will note that this process has been happening for a long time–part of why I grew frustrated with the Circle (Egger’s gave us no new ideas.) I think the primary question to ask now, and what The Circle is commenting on, is what we do with the price that is now put on matter.

Galloway rethorizes hackers by pointing to what they have in common with protocol: unlimited and total access to computers, and they both seek to eliminate authority.

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4 Responses to A Hacker’s Utopia — The Circle as the Ultimate Standardized Protocol?

  1. plorei says:

    Its interesting that you mention Eggers not providing us with new ideas. While I do agree that nothing in the Circle is particularly groundbreaking, I do think that Eggers does do a good job of captivating the readers attention. At times I was frustrated with the slow and very obvious plot-build. However, I think The Circle succeeds in that it is not only a semi-realistic storyline (at least for a dystopian novel), but also that Eggers makes the climb very believable as it is almost an exaggeration of events that are already starting to occur in real life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. charlenejo says:

    I need to go back and edit some of this. Saying that he introduced nothing new was a knee-jerk response to the end of the book–I wanted Egger’s to take us further. But, perhaps, that was the point, being that the world of the Circle is meant to comment on today.

    Like

    • elexiusmusick says:

      Hey, Charlenejo. 🙂

      [Spoilers]

      I agree with you that the ending provoked a knee-jerk response. I was at work, and I had to re-read the last two pages, and when I was done, I slammed the book down and said, “What the FUCK.” I love how your blog post is a thought-out and written version of “what the fuck, Eggers.”

      As for whether or not Eggers introduces us to new things–I do feel like the book will influence most people to think about their connection to and reliance upon technology, and new thought on a randomized individual level is good enough for now. If people don’t think about these things, we lack the ability to question them, and if we can’t question them, we can’t change them.

      That said, perhaps lack of change can be seen as human error. The few times I’ve seen people flare up about violations in technology (Facebook data collection, Google tag-reading, plane fare increases based on search habits, OKCupid experimentation), there was a brief spark of outrage followed by a fixation on the Next Big Thing. We care, but as long as the services make our lives convenient, we don’t care THAT much.

      Maybe a solution, then, is a true monopoly. But someone has to regulate that, and there you go, there’s your new hub. God, this is so frustrating. I feel like Eggers put my brain on a loop. There are no answers, damn it!

      Liked by 1 person

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