Augmentology"...is a concise manual of reality for our digital age."

Mark Hancock,_Augmentology: Interfaccia Tra Due Mondi_

[Sponsored by The Ars Virtua Foundation/CADRE Laboratory for New Media]

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 Twitter Failwhale

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 dysfunction.

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 corporate?