Week 3 reading

Critical Engineering Manifesto

  • -Engineering is a transformative and influential language that shapes our communications, mobility and thought.
  • Critical Engineers are people who are aware of engineering’s influence and are therefore suspicious of technologies that push dependency or rich user experience and seek to deconstruct and expose their inner workings
  •  Critical Engineers recognize that dependency on a piece of engineering in turn engineers its users.  They expose these spaces between production and consumption of technology to showcase their imbalances and deceptions
  • Critical Engineers consider the term “machine” to encompass devices, bodies, agents, forces and networks.  They understand that written code can regulate behavior between people and machines, and seek to use this to reconstruct user-constraints and social action
  • Critical Engineers look for historical examples of Critical Engineering withing the realms of art, architecture, activism, philosophy and invention and utilize concepts, strategies and goals from those works
  •  Exploiting a system is the most desirable form of exposure
Critical Engineers examine systems to find how a new technology could change the way we think or interact in potentially undesirable ways. They then look for ways to exploit the technology so it can expose its own flaws


  • Sovereign society – Hierarchy, with one central individual or group holding the most power, with lesser powers branching off from the center.  Enforcement of control usually relied on violence or coercion
  • Disciplinary society – Bureaucracy, decentralized control with several individuals or groups with equal power and smaller powers spreading off of each node.  Control enforced by bureaucratic guidelines and wage control
  • Control society – Protocol, distributed power with set rules determines how power flows.  Control exercised by limiting the permissions and access of a user within the network
How the internet works:
TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol Suite, digital rules for transmitting lots of octets (8 bits) between programs or servers on a computer or the World Wide Web.
TCP/IP treats each computer as equal in a network, enabling any computer to communicate with any other without hierarchy
DNS – Domain Name System, a decentralized, hierarchical system for associating a plain-text web address (www.hackpad.com) with an IP address, which is a set of 4 numbers that the computer can actually recognize as where it needs to connect.  (Try typing into your browser, it is the default address for many types of router)  The addresses are found by starting at a root server, which directs the request down the line to a specific domain, ie “.org”, this repeats until all parts of the address are located (.org -> rhizome -> www.)
Since DNS is a decentralized hierarchy, parts of it can be turned on or off to deny or allow access to certain blocks of IP addresses, making servers and webpages unreachable even if there are no other connection issues.
HTML/HTTP – Hyper Text Markup Language, and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol.  On the server of a webpage, HTTP encapsulates the individual HTML objects and follows the TCP to deliver the information to the computer that requested the page
Disciplinary society tied power to the location of the machinery through factories, plants and offices.  The control society will distribute the power across the network, but control comes from the strict requirement to follow the protocols within the network.  If two nodes wish to communicate, its not an issue of who as more or less influence, its a matter of if they are speaking the same language.  However, the Internets reliance on DNS forms a weak point in its distributive model, allowing a government or similarly powered body to deny access to whatever web domains they want, making the equality provided by TCP/IP meaningless

  1. Have you stopped using any technology after an exploit showed you its ugly side?  Or have you simply changed the way you use that technology?
  2. Are there any Futurist or Science Fiction technologies you would really like to see realized?  Are there any that would creep you out, scare you, or challenge your moral beliefs?  Are there any that are both?
    (IE – cryogenics, genetic manipulation, androids, smart devices, or anything you’ve seen or can think of?)
  3. Is it unusual to consider and try to act upon the potential negative aspects of a technology that hasn’t been fully realized yet?
  4. Do members of your family work in an office or factory?  Do you see yourself working in that same environment after college?  Have you seen a shift in friends/family/yourself towards working outside of traditional work spaces on personal computers?  Is that something you want going forward in life?
  5. How would you react to your government shutting down internet access and even text messaging services in order to exert control?
  6. Do you have an opinion on “The internet of things”?  If so, does the concept of DNS servers blocking access to entire domains of addresses change that opinion?  Should we base a system of embedded smart devices and automation on protocols that are subject to hierarchy?


  • Galloway’s introduction to his book provides great insight into understanding the structure of the Internet. By looking at how much different it is from other types of systems, the diagram at the beginning of the introduction helps to better understand how the Internet works as this distributed network. There is no centralization or decentralization in this new system structure. By explaining that distribution and protocol nature of the Internet Galloway makes it clear how the protocols in the communication between two computers is very important. For the most part he makes it clear as to how www, IP, HTML, CSS, HTTP, DNS and TCP all play a role in how we access the web. It’s by describing these structures the importance of protocol in this system is very important. The shared protocol system is one we take advantage of everyday when we’re using the Internet and it’s part of the reason that makes the structure so unique from the other types of systems that were used before it.
    The Critical Engineering Manifesto is one to keep in mind when thinking about working with the system that Galloway describes. This manifesto provides a great guideline that can be of great benefit to our projects in this class. It’s also a great to help set goals for you when working on a project pertaining to the ways in which we interact with computers. By having ourselves embody the manifesto of the Critical Engineer we should be able to take a hold of our intentions with our work and be able to manifest them in the ways in which we want others to be able to benefit from our labor. Being able to have this type of manifesto when working on any type of new media project, especially software/user interaction related can greatly benefit from following this manifesto and definitely helps bring to light how successfully engineering your ideas can ultimately benefit one’s final product.

  • From Galloway, A. R.’s excerpt: Protocol: how control exists after decentralization, his introduction reflected on the various perspectives on three main networks: centralized, decentralized, and distributed. As for Oliver, J., Savičić, G., & Vasiliev, D.’s The Critical Engineering Manifesto, they reflected on a list of values or beliefs that engineers take into account when dealing and working with machines, in this case, computers. Overall, these two readings provided insights that helped illustrated a bigger picture on how machines and humans has a significant relationship to how networks could be seen a as a complex web of information. From where data are sent and received in various ways, as long, the message followed the flow of how the network was planned. Similar to how a city functions, where residents used public transportation to travel from one place to another.

    When looking at the diagram at the beginning of Galloway’s excerpt, each small network looked like a rough blueprint or map of a certain type of city. For example, a decentralized network could compare to a map of New York City and the five boroughs. Manhattan is at the heart of the map where bridges and tunnels are connected to the boroughs; which represents as hubs. And the boroughs expand to small towns which are the nodes. As for a centralized network, the city of Houston is surrounded with small towns and cities; which are the nodes. Lastly, an example of a distributed network would be a before and after image or map comparing a particular area where it was disturbed from either a human crisis (i.e. War) or natural disaster. Likely New Orleans during the time of Hurricane Katrina is an example of how a natural disaster could disturb a human network. It once had a network going smoothing until something disturbed the flow to permanently cause it act not so uniformly; no structure.

    While shifting to The Critical Engineering Manifesto, there are a few that can be applied to an artist’s lifestyle as well. For example, how technology dependence can be a challenge and threat. In other words, when using technology, is it benefiting us to getting a task done or is it a harmful distraction? Will technology disturb our level of thinking, communication between society, or embedded them into our daily lives which could risks us to becoming a tech-zombies? However, this manifesto connected to Galloway’s statement on how protocols is a significant part when communicating with technology, especially computers. As if these protocols are like languages which are made for a particular group.

  • Some good summaries here – how well do you think we understand the protocols we use everyday? Do you feel like you have a good understanding of the various internet protocols that Galloway outlines?

    This relates to the manifesto in the way that we now almost completely rely on these protocols for information on how the world works, yet many people don’t have even a rudimentary understanding of them. How could this be a problem?

    For example, do you know what the different between HTTP is and HTTPS is? (one of the reason that this site itself is still throwing an error.

    How does a distributed system like bitcoin relate? Check the supplementary readings for more examples of distributed technologies…

  • Galloway says the founding principle of the Net is control ( diagram, a technology, and a management style) not freedom. The controlling power lies is technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible. To be honest this is all really wordy and complex to me. I understand that wouldn’t be able to be posting here without technical protocols that enable network connections to other locations on the Net. I respect that I am given freedom to post, but understand that there is more hidden than the internet access I am given. For example, Open Garden Foundation is a net neutrality app created to share mobile internet and allow faster downloads and stronger connectivity. I use my computer to freely share everyday without understanding how it is technically being distributed. While this small application is free to be accessed by everyone, i’m not sure how I would feel about downloading it if it were to be a more Peer to Peer based Application like Twitter. Maybe some data should remain private.

    Like I said, I did not completely understand Galloway’s language. But on the other hand, engineers could potentially give us (net users) access to new spaces and codes that at this point are in hidden behind databases. Having this technology and ability to give the user a new experience between production and consumption, I think that acting on Open Source Data plans will have a positive effect on art, architecture, activism, philosophy and invention and utilize concepts, strategies and goals. (I found this in art especially while browsing through works to Hashtag for this weeks twitter assignment).

  • The reading illustrated various points in how computers send messages to each other and establish which message goes where. I found a lot of comparisons between how computers send messages and how we communicate with each other. Whether it be with the close we choose to represent ourselves with, or how we speak around others. Subtle messages in a persons behavior and representation can send messages of their own and can affect where the individual belongs in a specific ‘grouping’ in our society.

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