Note — Aug 23, 2020

Squad Wealth

This piece by Sam Hart, Toby Shorin, Laura Lotti already compresses a lot of ideas together—aiming to name and draw a diffuse circle around some of the groups forming in the “deep social web”—so I won’t try to compress further, have a read. As Ezra Klein often says on his podcast, “lets put a pin in this” to get back to it, since there are definitely some inklings of new rituals and practices emerging, and I feel that not being a gamer I’m missing a great deal of where these are forming. Even though the authors might be waxing a bit too poetic and memetic, there’s something there.

If we were to map this out on my favourite metaphor, the crazy person / detective / conspiracy theorist wall of red string, we’d pin it close to what’s in this filtered for small groups by Matt Webb, including the scenius, coworking spaces (the good ones), co-ops (especially like Doug’s remaining unmanaged ones), Enspiral, and in some ways it’s even adjacent to convening small groups as I discussed in Dispatch 5.

Group collaboration is now the strong default, putting squads at the center of social, cultural, and economic life. To paraphrase Bill Bishop: today people are born as individuals, and have to find their squad. […]

For the squad to understand itself as a whole, it maintains boundaries circumscribing strong group norms. Fuck a Dunbar number—the ideal squad count is no more than 12. How can you really be present with more than a dozen people? Small groups are crucial for tight coordination. A greater network may surround the squad, making it appear big and fuzzy from the outside. But for the core crew, an invisible circle binds and protects a space of group identity. […]

The Twitter subcultures shown above are only a sliver of an expansive social deep web. Beneath this fuzzy graph is SQUAD SPACE, the network of inner-zones where digital microcultures are born: group DMs, Discords, Slacks, Keybases. Memes forged in SQUAD SPACE bubble out into the “clearnet” above, pwning NPCs on the internet of beefs. […]

Squads are woke to the empty neoliberal promises of gig-economy “employment” and para-social personal brands. Squads value self-determination, not through individualism, but through collective maintenance and care for one another. Squads value creative expression, but celebrate the group rather than individual authorship. For the squad, the autonomous is always collective.