Networked Counterculture

Is it possible to exist in the network on your own terms?

Networked Counterculture is a 30-page exploration in which we explore how the parameters of cultural production can be altered by using and abusing the logic of platforms that mediate them.

With many creatives feeling like their success—and their connection with their audience—is decided by the systems and algorithms of the platforms they use, it begs the question: Can you break the mold and still find success online?

In our research memo “Networked Counterculture”, created in collaboration with WeTransfer we explore how some creators—Corteiz, MSCHF and SAULT, to name a few—are subverting these platforms, playing the algorithm at its own game and, most importantly, winning.

Download the memo

On February 20th, five days before the release of her third album, the American singer-songwriter Vérité posts a note on her Instagram titled "How do I get your attention?" In it, she describes how it feels to be an artist in the creator economy: the constant pressure to churn out bite-sized and digestible moments to get enough views, likes and comments in the desperate hope of connecting with your fans on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Verite isn't alone in her uneasy feelings about the platforms that mediate—and effectively own—the relationship between her and her fans. Many artists find themselves torn between pleasing algorithms and staying true to their work. Platforms that once promised to remove the middlemen and create more direct, authentic connections between artists and their audiences are now gatekeepers themselves. 

We know we’re trapped. But strangely we’re also in love with our captors. As long as we stream, like, binge, lol and troll online, there’s a platform that feeds on our attention, algorithmically dissecting our habits to determine the type of content created on the other side of this infinite loop. If you don’t post, someone else will take your place in our global social arena where few make it to the top whilst the rest burn out. This is how the attention economy works. If you’re not visible online, you don’t exist. We keep on posting so we're not forgotten.

With our research into networked counterculture we sought to understand whether it could be different. Is it possible to exist in the network without compromising your artistic integrity? Is counterculture possible inside the system that turns us into perpetual content creators? 

Read the full article on WePresent

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Release date: May 24, 2023
Partner: WeTransfer
Projects featured: MSCHF, Corteiz, Sault
Researchers: Severin Matusek, Theresa Reimann-Dubbers, Alice Sweitzer
Design: Paloma Moniz

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Last updated: January 21, 2024 ■ 13:34pm