[Document about ®TMark
Web presence and its reasons, March 1997.]
Sections of this document:
The recent widespread publication of the so-called "Kelly
Award" for "best creative subversion" has prompted us at ®TMark to present a public face for the first time in
For nearly five years we have been funding acts of sabotage with activist or
aesthetic aims, in a manner that does not lend itself to widespread participation.
We have been very successful in our work, generating seventeen very clever acts
of "creative subversion" during the time of our operation; but perhaps this
is not successful enough.
Because of the apparently growing desire for the type of funding we provide,
and the insufficiency of any single large sum (such as the Kelly Award's) to
provide it, we have decided to risk misunderstanding and even exposure in order
to make our work more accessible and our help more available to the public at
large. We have invented a sort of "interface" between our core functions
and the public; it is described in Section III. Access to our core technologies
(described in Section II) has been discontinued.
Also, in order to demonstrate the scope of our work and make the present proposals
more appetizing, we are, for the first time, allowing our previous project participants
to reveal themselves if they so wish. We have recently indicated to each
of our previous workers that they are free to speak about the source of their
funding, their work, etc., though not about the details of our organization;
those who provided the funding are also at liberty to discuss it. We will
not reveal any names on our own, but only provide confirmation after the workers
or donors have revealed themselves.
II. DESCRIPTION OF ®TMark CORE
®TMark is a system of workers, ideas, and money whose function is to encourage
the intelligent sabotage of mass-produced items. The projects that the
®TMark system helps fund are aesthetic or activist in their aims, rather
than capitalist or strictly political, and tend to be relatively benign--they
do not cause physical injury, and they do not fundamentally damage a
product or a company’s profits. This is not because product or profits
are good, but because ®TMark is more likely to survive in the viciously jealous
world of the American market if it is not seen as attempting to damage its hosts.
®TMark is essentially a matchmaker and bank, helping groups or individuals
fund sabotage projects. Money provided by donors is held by ®TMark
until project completion, and goes to the saboteur at that time; he or she can
use it to find a new job or career, pay for lawyers, fund an avocation or a
vacation, etc. Should the project not be completed, the funds are returned
to the donor.
The four keys to each ®TMark project are the worker, the sponsor, the product,
and the idea. ®TMark’s entire purpose is to unite these four keys into projects.
Until recently, the core of the ®TMark system was a database located on
an anonymous Internet server and accessed by users in double-blind anonymity.
Once the four blanks in a database record were filled--worker, sponsor, product,
idea--a project was launched. The order in which the blanks were filled
was not important.
Here, for illustration, are descriptions of three of ®TMark 's projects;
all parties involved have indicated their willingness to be discussed in this
manner. (Again, we can only confirm actual identities after the parties
involved have revealed them independently.)
1. A musician in charge of remixing songs for export to Japan proposed
altering song titles and lyrics in ways that would highlight the music’s crass
nature and alert any anglophone listeners to that crassness. Two individuals
put forth funds: one sum was for at least ten major changes, the other an amount
for each change. The musician ended up collecting a fairly large sum for
his alterations (which did not, furthermore, cost him his job).
2. A group of military veterans opposed to war toys and the like put
forth the idea: to switch the voiceboxes of GI Joe and Barbie dolls so that
when they were purchased, GI Joes would speak like Barbies and vice-versa.
They also offered a sum for the accomplishment of this project. Several
company workers showed interest, but the difficulties that coordination would
pose were deemed by ®TMark to be too great and the workers’ proposals were
rejected. After nearly a year, the group that came to be known as the
Liberation Organization (BLO) put forth a proposal to enter stores where
the dolls had already been placed for sale, buy them, and then return them to
the shelves with their voiceboxes switched. While the original intention
had been to fund internal company workers, the practicality of the BLO’s idea
won out and, furthermore, the veterans’ group that had sponsored the idea agreed
to pay for the additional expenses. The BLO purchased and altered several
hundred Barbies and GI Joes, at which point the project was deemed successful.
The veterans’ group also agreed to fund a video discussing the action, which
the BLO made and distributed to the media and to universities.
3. A stripper, who played action games and knew that Maxis, Inc. was
beginning work on its first such, put forth the idea: that someone add very
visible homoerotic content to this new game. Thus the product and idea
blanks were filled first. An unemployed programmer liked the idea and
declared his availability. Shortly after this a shopowner with activist
leanings also fell in with a reward. The first programmer was unable to
get himself hired at Maxis, and his name was removed from the worker blank;
several other programmers volunteered and one of them, already at Maxis, was
chosen based on his higher likelihood of success. At this point the project
was launched. The programmer fulfilled
the project idea by making swimsuit-clad men appear here and there and express
their mutual affection in a very dramatic way; by the time Maxis, Inc. discovered
this and fired the programmer, the game had been shipped all over the country.
To make the “homoerotic content” more visible, the result was publicized in
III. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT INTERFACE
In order to make our system more available to the general public, we decided
to discontinue the dial-in system and solicit donors, workers, and ideas via
e-mail; lately we have moved to the World-Wide Web. We also maintain a
list of projects which have sponsors
and ideas, making them similar to contest guidelines. In a change from
our previous protocol, worker and sometimes product blanks will only be filled
upon successful completion.
Because of this difference, several competitors for a prize might all succeed.
Unfortunately, for the moment, only the first worker who successfully fulfills
a prize's criteria will collect it, unless otherwise noted.
Since we are appealing to a large audience, we think it prudent to state the
obvious: you may be caught. If you are caught, you may, of course, lose
your job, since almost all projects require egregious violations of company
policy. But since prizes that require illegal activities will never be
posted, you can rest assured that unless you’ve acted far outside of the stated
conditions, you will not end up in jail.
For many, losing a job is not a risk; many people work on relatively short
contracts (temps, etc.) and many others are eager for a change of scene.
As already stated, this can offer you a way to take that month off, or get training
needed for another career, or just leave a job in a manner that does something
good in the world.
For those to whom losing a job would represent a serious setback, we might
appreciate your courage, but we could assume no responsibility for any such
eventuality: this may simply not be for you.
IV. IDEAS AND AIMS
Why are we running what to many might seem like Satan’s temp agency?
Let us invert the metaphor. On the local scale, since ®TMark helps
individuals change careers, pay for vacations, etc., it is an ark made of ®
and TM. On the global scale, it is an ark for our humanness through the
deluge of ® and TM, an attempt to give our thoughts and desires a vehicle
to make themselves seen and felt in the often mechanical world around us.
It is an attempt to make our environment more palatable, more reflective of
us, and generally more human.
We are simply idealists of the most wide-eyed variety: we dare hope that our humble organization might help bridge the present to a future in which power is controlled by the "demos" in democracy, in which the public good isn't determined by the highest bidder, in which "welfare" comes to mean "health" once again. How these things are to happen, we're only starting to consider, and we may not be the best suited for that cognitive task.
But in an age in which "utopia" is a dirty word, it's already something just to dream and hope and resist.