"[My book] Protocol is about the Internet and related technologies that are saturating contemporary life, and the people who tend to establish the rules that unofficially govern these things -- hackers, computer scientists, public policy makers, political activists, and Internet and digital artists."
When Alexander Galloway was offered a position in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, he was fascinated by the concept of media ecology: "It suggests that media is a kind of ecological system in which we all live." He joined the department and couldn't be happier. "The department has such a great history, Neil Postman was a true leader in the field of media studies, and I love New York."
Prior to coming to NYU Steinhardt, Galloway worked for Rhizome.org, a nonprofit organization that supports the new media art community by granting commissions and online exposure to artists worldwide. During his time at Rhizome, he attended Duke University, graduating in 2001 with a PhD from the Literature Program. "The Literature Program at Duke was really very interdisciplinary," he explains. " I was able to draw on my baccalaureate studies in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University while writing my PhD dissertation on computers and new media."
Computers and new media have fascinated Galloway as far back as he can remember. "I'm part of the generation who find all that second nature," he says. "I learned how to program in the 1990s during the Internet boom, and I worked at Amazon.com in its early days."
Galloway now considers himself an artist who makes computer-based work that is shown "either in galleries or museums or online in web only exhibitions." He's also a founding member of RSG, the Radical Software Group, an informal collective interested in making software in order to understand how it works. "Carnivore" is the premier project of the group. "It's a data surveillance software system based on a notorious FBI system with the same name," says Galloway. "The FBI used the original Carnivore for electronic wire tapping." RSG, through guesswork, figured out how the FBI system was put together, then made their own version and released it to the public "so that anyone can use it for ends that are not necessarily covert or mischievous." In September 2002, Carnivore received a Golden Nica, the highest honor in the field of new media art.
In addition to his work as an artist, Galloway has written a book, PROTOCOL, or, How Control Exists After Decentralization, published by MIT Press. "It's about the Internet and related technologies that are saturating contemporary life, and the people who tend to establish the rules that unofficially govern these things -- hackers, computer scientists, public policy makers, political activists, and Internet and digital artists."
In the meantime, Galloway enjoys teaching at the graduate and undergraduate level. "I favor a very hands-on, immersive approach," he says. "I really want students to get inside digital technologies and experience how they actually work, not simply critique them from the sidelines." Galloway says this is an approach gleaned from his own studies, and it makes him realize that "teaching is a very good profession and a good and interesting way to live your life."