mez breeze on Sun, 6 Jul 2008 06:17:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> _Synthetic Presencing vs Branding_: Fail Whale Gets a Girlfriend

_Synthetic Presencing vs Branding_: Fail Whale Gets a Girlfriend

Twitter is a microblogging service that is currently experiencing continual
outages. Users are encountering a range of Twitter functionality issues
including scalability and stability problems. These outages are provoking
debate regarding the future of Twitter as a primary microblogging vehicle
for user-driven content.

Twitter engineers are aware of these criticisms regarding software
reliability. They report on the status of Twitter through official channels
and utilization of novel error messages. One such error message that has
developed beyond its intended use is _The Fail Whale_.

The Fail Whale [FW] is an interesting example of Synthetic Presencing.
Initially, the presentation of the FW graphic resulted in a dispersal of
negative reactions provoked by technical failure; his appearance softened an
otherwise irritating user experience. This base intention has now been
magnified and reappropriated by a growing Presencing population.

This FW demographic is loosely defined by expressive affection of, and
interest in, an emergent persona. They embrace the FW as an example of a
seemingly innocuous/juvenile attempt to distract, disarm and amuse a
community user-base. This affective redirection - whilst still engaging the
target community in a type of awareness-byproduct that results from meme
development - allows users to feel connected even when experiencing software

FW has also evolved from a single image selected to cushion error evidence
towards a synthaptic construct. FWs basic graphics, simple colour scheme and
brief soundbytesque messages blend together to guide followers with a type
of cartoon palatability. This synthetic assemblage now has a generating
history, a fanclub, multiple representational variations, a theme song,
merchandise and associative characterisation. This FW entity-threading has
ballooned past Synthetic Presencing while venturing into deliberate Branding
territory. Is this FW Branding strangling potential user projections? Does
this activity shift Presencing towards economic ratification? When does
Presencing morph from an authentic synthetic-driven [re]vision into the


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