Fenwick McKelvey – Internet Daemons: Digital Communications Possessed


University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 13:978-1517901547, English, 336 pages, 2018, USA

The need to understand the internal mechanisms of the Internet has become as important as the need to understand TV as a system in the recent past. But the scale of infrastructural complexity is much higher, and so too, the underlying software mechanisms are, and are meant to be, largely invisible.
That’s why it is essential to understand internet software ”daemons” and their role in autonomously inspecting, routing and queuing packets of information. Accessing the inner functioning of the internet, this kind of software is (in)famous for prioritising or de-prioritising the use of bandwidth, with the purpose of optimising it and allowing different simultaneous services. McKelvey carefully tracks the history of daemons’ original concept, its subsequent technical application and the consequences over time it generated, producing economical and political changes. The struggle between Internet providers and peer-to-peer users is explained through their opposite strategies, while a whole chapter dedicated to The Pirate Bay is an opportunity to understand their effort to elude daemons’ ’radars’. Unveiling this level is essential to understanding our vital Internet infrastructure. Here, it quickly becomes more a philosophical question involving themes like net neutrality and the invisible functioning of networked machines, finally detailing the whole technological context.