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<nettime> #Thimbl, Social Media Week, {AT} dsearls and Economic Fiction as a
Dmytri Kleiner on Wed, 5 Oct 2011 13:27:51 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> #Thimbl, Social Media Week, {AT} dsearls and Economic Fiction as a Performative Artwork


#Thimbl, Social Media Week,  {AT} dsearls and Economic Fiction as a
Performative Artwork


Thimbl[1] has been getting some attention lately, party because of my talk
at Social Media Week Berlin[2], partly because of a Tweet by the legendary
Doc Searls[3].

Despite being part of Transmediale 2010 and winning a distinction at the
festival, many people don't seem to realize that Thimbl is an artwork.
It's a part of Telekommnunisten's Miscommunication Technologies series
along with such works as deadSwap[4] and r15n[5]. 

Miscommunication Technologies uncover the social relations embedded in
communication technology, creating platforms that don't often work as
expected, or work in unexpected ways.

I suppose the fact that Thimbl is an artwork was a surprise to the
organizers of Social Media Week, and perhaps would be to Doc Searls as
well. Who, like many of the people in the audience an Social Media Week
might be thinking. Huh? What makes this art exactly?

The answer is surprisingly simple, it's art because it is carried out in an
art context, at events like Transmediale, Hack.Fem.East, Sousevelance, and
at places such Piet Zwart Institute and the Israeli Center for Digital Art.

These works function as a kind of performative science fiction.
Introducing the narrative of the political economy of the Internet into the
media arts community by way of interactive artworks in the form of
telephone and internet platforms, much like the Telekommunist Manifesto
introduces the same topics in text. Among the core messages that we wish to
contribute to the media art dialogue is an understanding of how
centralization and decentralization relate to exploitation and freedom,
respectively.

Thimbl is an artwork, not really an alternative to Facebook, Twitter, or
even Identi.ca, as it was billed at Social Media Week, unwittingly by the
organisers, who where non-the-less quite pleased at the results, and with
the discusion it caused.

Thimbl is about the need for decentralized social media, and illustrates
that this is something that has always been a part of the Internet, while
also showing that it's not really so difficult to implement. 

Even though it's ambitions are symbolic, Thimbl actually works. 

Because it's decentralized, we can't know how many users it has, but you
can see the global timeline of all users that we do know about on our own
ThimblSinging[6] instance. If you have a finger account on any server,
anywhere, with a Thimbl-compatible plan file[7], you can use this site as
well, and start using Thimbl without installing anything from the Thimbl
project on your own server. 

Or, you can grab the code and host a instance of ThimblSinging yourself.[8]

If you prefer the command line, or want to script something, Thimbl-CLI[9]
is available, as is the thimblr gem that comes with ThimblSinging. Even the
GMail of Thimbl already exists; Phimbl[10], where you can just sign up and
have a Thimbl account. And PageKite[11] has added support for Thimbl too,
meaning you can even easily self-host your Thimbl account, if you want too,
perhaps even on your mobile device.

So, if all this exists, why is Thimbl not a real alternative?

Well, for one, we made it as artwork because it has merit as such wether or
not it becomes a viable platform, just like some ideas that emerge from
science fiction become reality, and some don't, yet the predictive science
doesn't directly determine the merit of the work of fiction.

However, that's not the main reason. Perhaps even calling it science
fiction is misleading here.  It's not Thimbl's technical viability that's
speculative, but rather it's economic viability. Thimbl is an economic
fiction. 

Making it work is not the greatest challenge, making it financially viable
is. Thimbl does not provide investors with the ability to control it's
users or their data, and as Thimbl's Manifesto[12] states "This control is
required by the logic of Capitalist finance in order to capture value.
Without such control profit-seeking investors do not provide funds."

For Thimbl, or any other platform with a simular vision, to become a real
alternative to the capitalist financed platforms like Facebook and Twitter,
we need more than running code, even more than a small, perhaps dedicated,
user base. These assets are only enough to keep it going as a lively, yet
marginal underground medium. A fun platform for experts and enthusiasts,
unknown and unknowable to the masses. 

To get beyond this and actually break the monopolizing grip of centralized
social media we need to match their productive capacities. We need
financing on a simular scale. so that the development, marketing, and
operations budgets are comparable and sufficient to compete. That is what
is required to be a true alternative, not a symbolic one. Yet, Capitalism
can not provide such financing.

Just like science fiction becomes reality when science transcends the
limitations that existed when it was imagined, for economic fiction like
Thimbl to become reality economics will need to transcend the limitations
that we currently face.

We can write code, we can write texts, we can create artworks. But as a
small network of artists and hackers, we can't change the economic
conditions we work in by ourselves.

That is why Thimbl is an artwork; its message must transform society for
its vision to become reality. It is a manifesto, written in code.

If you want to see the project succeed, join us, grab the code and ideas
you want and run with them.

As usual, I will be enjoying some drinks with friends at Stammtisch, our
weekly casual drinking night here in Berlin at Cafe Buchhandlung.[13].
Please come by.


 [1] http://thimbl.net
 [2] http://socialmediaweek.org
 [3] http://twitter.com/#!/dsearls/status/119808351688335362
 [4] http://deadswap.net
 [5] http://docs.telekommunisten.net/r15n
 [6] http://thimbl.tk
 [7] http://j.mp/dotplan
 [8] https://github.com/fguillen/ThimblSinging
 [9] https://github.com/blippy/Thimbl-CLI
[10] http://phimbl.tk
[11] http://pagekite.net/wiki/Howto/FingerAndThimbl/
[12] http://www.thimbl.net/manifesto.html
[13] http://j.mp/buchhandlung

-- 
Dmyri Kleiner
Venture Communist


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