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w w at thing.net
Wed Jul 22 19:54:59 UTC 2020


Phantom Threads: Restoring The Thing BBS

This event is organized by the New Museum’s digital art affiliate
Rhizome to mark the launch of a restoration of The Thing BBS, which
will be presented as part of First Look: New Art Online. It follows on
from an event exploring the community and culture of The Thing BBS on
Tuesday, July 21 at 2pm. To receive access instructions and a reminder,
please RSVP here:


Founded in New York City in 1991, The Thing was a Bulletin Board
System–a forum where users could post and exchange messages–focusing on
contemporary art and cultural theory. Among the tens of thousands of
BBSes that flourished from the late 1970s to the 1990s, The Thing was
notable for its design and community dynamics. Considered by its
founder Wolfgang Staehle to be a kind of social sculpture, The Thing
included features such as an anonymized chatroom, and it was a hub for
online experimental writing. This history is little known, because most
of the messages posted on The Thing BBS have been lost or otherwise
inaccessible for many years.

During his tenure as Rhizome’s digital conservator, Ben Fino-Radin
began a research project to locate missing archives from The Thing BBS.
He succeeded in securing a WordPerfect file containing a screen dump of
more than 400 pages of messages saved by a hacker named Blackhawk,
former sysadmin of The Thing. With the support of a grant from the
National Endowment of the Humanities. Rhizome has undertaken a project
to recover, make accessible, and study this material. This event marks
the launch of a web-based interface to offer access to many of the
recovered threads from this research process, which will be copresented
by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of First Look: New Art Online.

Following Tuesday’s event “Consensual Hallucinations: Early Online
Writing from The Thing BBS Archives,” this event brings together
Rhizome’s Preservation Director Dragan Espenschied, Rhizome Software
Curator Lyndsey Moulds, and Ben Fino-Radin, director of Small Data
Industries, for a conversation about the philosophical and practical
questions that arose in process of offering access to the archives of
The Thing BBS.

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