There’s no ‘I’ in squad

By Tina Ryoon Andersen, Program Developer and Content Curator at The Danish Society of Engineers, IDA

We live in a time where powerful movements like The Gamestop Reddit Revolt, Black Lives Matter, #MeTooand Extinction Rebellion have shown us the power of collaboration when combating injustice, inequality, and climate change. Simultaneously we might be at the brink of a new technological paradigm, with the move from a centralized Web 2.0 to a decentralized and open Web3. As developments in culture, technology and finance are always entangled, it seems timely to explore how a cooperative-oriented and mission-driven spirit of time influences emergent technologies and bring forward new types of creative culture and business models. Are we about to move into interdependent, cooperative, and mission-driven ways of organizing, designing, and producing?

“Squads value creative expression but celebrate group rather than individual authorship. They are culture above business.”

In 2020 the social tech research organization Other Internet published Squad Wealth in which they argue that we are moving from a culture based on individuality to one based on collectivity. This tendency is a reaction against neoliberal individualism and social atomization and captures the spirit of the time where limits to individual agency have been exposed and paved the way for a new cultural paradigm: ‘Squad culture’. Thanks to online tools and social platforms, squads are reemerging as a new type of cultural force, based on collaboration and resource sharing. According to Other Internet a squad is: “a coherent body. … It’s not you or me. It’s Us. We. Ours.”. It is interdependent — social, emotional, and financial. Squads value creative expression but celebrate group rather than individual authorship. They are culture above business. Other Internet foresees that squads will be the organizational structure of the future, just as important as companies in the years to come. It is a collective redefinition of value that marks the end of an individualistic market driven logic that was put forward by an early Web 2.0 and an accompanying creator economy framework — where everyone is a producer, but also left to him/her/themselves.

“If Web 2.0 promoted individuality, self-expression, lonely geniuses, and commerce, can Web3 pave the way for collectivity, shared missions, interdependence, and fair pay for creators?”

Fast forward a few years and a new online based squad, Metalabel saw the light of day at Sheeling Pointin February 2022. Metalabel is a concept calling for the same change put forward by Other Internet. Simultaneously it is a collective of creatives working to turn the theoretical framework into practical use. Their point of reference is music and a Metalabel is described as a new kind of label or: “groups of people working under a common identity for a common purpose with focus on ‘releases’ — distinct public works that reflect and manifest their views”. Each release stands on its own, while adding to a larger universe that is defined by the label’s work. They come from a variety of people in varieties of forms — not limited to the same, standardized products (an album, a blockbuster, a TedTalk, a T-shirt), but can take whatever form the creator defines.

A key element for Metalabels is a scene for it to participate in. They flourish when they are in dialogue with a community or scene, and in some cases: “the label may end up creating a scene”. Metalabels signal a move from ‘single-player’ to ‘multiplayer-mode’, and present a framework based on collaboration, collective world-building, and mutual support, where every producer is part of an interdependent ecosystem that values, credits, and pays each of its contributors.

The success of these new types of cultural- and organizational forms are dependent on technical infrastructures and software that makes real cooperation and the sharing of resources possible: “The group is the basic user class for the tools we need today as a society, yet few pieces of software allow the squad as a whole to produce cooperatively and generate wealth together. To fully realize SQUAD CULTURE this must change,” Squad Wealth.

It will be interesting to see if the development of a blockchain based Web3 and an emergence of DAOs and digital currencies will provide cooperative-based organizations the possibility to generate revenue and make them financially sustainable. If Web 2.0 promoted individuality, self-expression, lonely geniuses, and commerce, can Web3 pave the way for collectivity, shared missions, interdependence, and fair pay for creators?

A source of inspiration on this quest isInterdependence. A project that releases podcasts on subscription on the subject, while building a community/scene of like minded creatives. Co-initiator and artist Mat Dryhurst argues that “the magic of blockchain and smart contracts for me is the ability to encode ideology into the things that you create”. Web3 still seems like a buzz, but I would like to believe that we will soon see a cultural shift in who/how we produce and consume online. Designers have a crucial role to play here!

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We celebrate people, from far and wide, who use design to change the world. We call it #designtoimprovelife

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