Open Collective
Open Collective
Love in the Middle of a Firefight: DisCO’s most played tracks of 2022
Published on December 20, 2022 by Ann Marie Utratel

Look out, honey, ’cause I’m using technology
Ain’t got time to make no apology
Soul radiation in the dead of night 
Love in the middle of a firefight.

-Iggy and the Stooges, Search and Destroy (listen here)

Has 2022 been a weird year for you? That’s OK, things are getting way weirder and scarier for everyone — and, historically, for some more than others. If history ended in 1991 (ahem), then we’re perpetually living in its epilogue with no recourse or possibility of justice. Apocalyptic vibes much? 

In her terrifyingly prescient MaddAddam Trilogy, speculative fiction writer Margaret Atwood introduces the term, ‘fallow state’: 

“Fallow state, the Gardeners would say. They used that diagnosis for a wide range of conditions, from depression to post-traumatic stress to being permanently stoned. The theory was that while in a Fallow state you were gathering and conserving strength, nourishing yourself through meditation, sending invisible rootlets out into the universe.”

In a world of vectorial succubi worse than capitalism, where a badly scripted Bond supervillain with a phallic rocket fixation welcomes fascists to networks which ought to be commons based and peer produced

…where 80-hour work weeks and bunking in the office are the new normal… who wouldn’t want to “quiet quit” or just flat-out quit and move on? We have to rebel, we have to dance and, as much as we’re able, also rest, gather and conserve strength. 

Energy has been unfolding gradually but steadily within DisCO this year. We consciously chose to go on low power mode for a while and prioritize reproductive work and relationality over productivist showiness. 2022 has been marked by extraordinary encounters, serendipitous dialogue and a wider sampling of what the DisCOverse needs to become. Join us for our recap of 2022 as we’re headed in the next orbit. You are cordially invited to come along.

1. What did you accomplish during 2022? How did you use money?

We held a kick-off meeting late March as soon as funding was unlocked, and agreed on a revised and streamlined working method for the present team, and maintained our rhythms of weekly team calls and daily communication. We held three further in-person meetings to allow us to have longer, in-depth conversations about overall mission, vision and priorities, and to plan events; we invited collaborator Ela Kagel of Supermarkt, Berlin to a meeting to discuss the Berlin-based community around DisCO and plan an event and workshop. We initiated the co-design of the proposed African Regional DisCO Network with our colleague Brian Tinoota, heading this section of the project from his home base in Zimbabwe. We also met with our freelance collaborator/potential long-term team member, Kadallah Burrowes, in order to negotiate and envision our strategic and creative collaboration for this year and beyond.

DisCO people. L to R: Sara Escribano, Ann Marie Utratel, Stacco Troncoso, Kadallah Burrowes and Irene López de Vallejo

We advanced in building strong, long-term alliances with collaborative partners including the following organizations and projects, each with specific relevance and alignment with DisCO values and missions: Greenpeace International, as a key strategic partner in their Alternative Futures campaign; Sporobole and Repaire, bringing DisCO practices and governance to the municipally supported arts sector in Quebec Province (Canada), Circles UBI working with their crypto financial design and UBI to complement existing DisCO value streams, work with Leap Collective in sandboxing DisCO practices in their facilitation group; Regen Network collaboration in making their materials more accessible and deepening their understanding of the commons; MIT's Open Collectives (yes, it’s really that close to your name!) and CareHaus projects on DisCO governance for disenfranchised communities in Baltimore, MD, using DisCO to connect and strengthen local economies.

So far, we have hosted or co-hosted several events internationally and participated in many others. We arranged the first in-person Spanish DisCO presentation at EthicHub, Madrid (Spain) and  we hosted a workshop at Newspeak House, London (UK). We co-hosted the 6th annual Envisioning Free Space event in Amsterdam (NL). We participated in events including Regens Unite!; IOT Week Dublin; EU Commission for the European Innovation Area Summit; participated on a panel at the Iklectik Art Lab Festival;  took part in the Radical Friends book launch event (the book includes an interview with the DisCO C.A.T.). We attended in-person meetings with: CRAIC (Creative Coops Hackney, site visit and seminar), Institute for the Future of Work, Furtherfield, Ethic Hub, MediaLab Matadero. We hosted an in-person DisCO Journey bespoke workshop for the team of SODAA (London, UK) and participated in online events: Blockchain Socialist Interview; Urban Commons lecture series; Twitter live interview.
We also traveled to the US and Canada for in-person events, workshops and meetings towards deeper collaborations in Quebec City (Sporobole, Repaire); Boston (MIT, Sensorica) and Baltimore, MD (Greenmount Coop). DisCO coop member Sara Escribano taught an in-person  course on DisCO to the Youth Initiative Program (YIP) in early October. 

African Network lead Brian Tinoota represented the DisCO project at The AfricaOSH Summit in Cameroon and the Frontiers Symposia on Ethiopia, and introduced the model at an online workshop organized by Njombe Innovation Academy called BUNI Learning Spaces, and represented DisCO in a debate panel as part of Ibiza's CREATEC YOUNG student-focused programme, a month of conferences and events exploring potential intersections between art and technology.

Brian Tinoota (center)

We have begun technical base work for planned resources (including updated wiki design, website renovation, self-hosted Loomio groups). 

We also attended One Project-related calls and workshops including an ongoing relationship with Future Economy Lab, OP Cohort calls and follow-up with the Wellbeing Economy Alliance.

2. What challenges did you face during 2022? What did your Collective learn

We had a slower than expected response to our initial iteration of the DisCO Journey and rollout of active DisCOs. To respond to this and course correct, we're retooling the Journey for better uptake and accessibility. The DisCO Journey is the cornerstone of the whole project, and the feedback we’re analyzing now, incorporating feedback from our meetings and discussions with a wide variety of communities, on- and offline, is an important process that will result in greater quality.  Consistent team communication and evaluation of direct and indirect feedback from the prototyping cohort in the DisCO Journey, to analyze the rate of participation, follow-through and accessibility; feedback in live workshops and Q&As (including during online events). These findings are being used to co-design the first official beta version of the DisCO Journey. We have also invited specific feedback from close allies: Ela Kagel, David Bollier, Alnoor Ladha, Paula Tejón (Greenpeace International), Nathan Schneider, Primavera de Filippi, among others.  In addition, we’ve formulated a list of things we’re in the process of exploring and learning at the moment - our own “learning journey” is ongoing.

3. How did you change or grow

We reprioritized plans in favor of greater outreach and network building of actual DisCO participation at this earlier stage, to gather more DisCO Journey participant feedback (e.g. about needs we could not anticipate on behalf of other groups) for the development stages.  We are also using new narrative-analytical tools and educational/cohort-based approaches as a result of Ann Marie's concurrent (and self-funded where applicable) participation in the Rhizome Fellowship (Culture Hack Labs), as well as a number of other valuable and related learning journeys (eg. Ayni School’s Social Movements/ Movement Ecology course; Advaya’s Rewilding Mythology course; KAOSPILOT’s Learning Arches Design, Earth Activists (Starhawk)’s Social Permaculture course, among others). 

We have raised awareness amongst public authorities internationally about the potential of incentivising DisCO-oriented collective entrepreneurship with the EU Parliament (see link above), Quebec Province Chantier, UKRI through.conversation with top public officers,  and the city of Amsterdam (EFS event).

4. What are your plans for 2023? Anything exciting coming up?

During our outreach trips on 3 continents (Europe, US/Canada and various African countries), we considered what might be the best outcome to achieve a result that was:
  1. True to the vision and desired learnings pitched to One Project, incorporating adaptations or limitations to specific deliverables in the 2021 proposal.
  2. True to the nature and ideals of DisCO as inclusive, caring and visionary
  3. True to ourselves, this team, our capacities and sensitivities
We've identified seven focal directions, from now until the end of the current grant and as stepping stones for the next year.

1: New DisCO Website [Productive]

We are building a new website with aesthetics and functionality meeting the level of our papers and workshops. This is meant to increase our visibility, enhance our professional appearance,  attract more groups to the DisCO Journey and have DisCO resources more clearly available.

2: DisCO Journey Platform & Cohort [Productive]

We're clear on the 3 DisCO Journey options to develop (Quick Start; Self-Paced; Cohort [longer term, facilitated, hosted]). We are currently adapting a FLOSS Moodle backend to the DisCO imaginary, closely tying it with our other online resources (wiki, Loomio group, Matrix server, etc)

3: Film/Documentary(s) [Productive]

This year, we've been gratifyingly successful with events and community outreach. We need more visual elements (infographics, but also documentary videos). To this end, we have already shot video during visits and workshops. The first of these will be the US/CAN mini-documentary (see the trailer here). We see this as a key element because videos can feature real, established communities rather than only the team talking about DisCO; they demonstrate a level of variety and gender/race diversity not often represented in these projects; video as a format is more watchable and fun, not academic or alienating. 

4: Pink Paper [Productive]

The development of a Beta DisCO Deck was an important part of the 2021 proposal, but we have had neither the staff or budget to attempt this. In truth, any tech platform will need a lot more funding to be even minimally feasible and not just abandonware. For us it's key to coalesce a multi-constituent design community first with a well articulated, pluri-economic vision, and attend to their needs, and include them in the whole process. For this, we spoke before about a separate but tightly interrelated DisCOtech coding collective. Prior to that, an option in line with our current strengths would be to write and reflect about the kinds of technologies we see as aligned with DisCO Principles (including those of Design Justice, Feminist Tech and others). Now, with Kadallah Burrowes on the team and the feedback from DJ participants and others, we can finally write the DisCO Pink Paper as a proposal on the tech we want to see created, and as a provocation on technology. Clear articulation of this vision can generate interest for the funding to develop it — like a traditional White Paper, and also directly address and simultaneously critique different tech ambitions in the wild.

5: Fundraising and Sustainability [Reproductive]

Fundraising is key for us to achieve our objectives. In short, we need more committed members, not rush team building (having a slower relationship/trust building DisCO ‘dating process’, as with Kadallah). It's also care work for ourselves (see direction 7, below).  Here we propose to co-design our fundraising so it doesn't scatter our attention, but strengthen our core mission and goals. It's also key to note that we wouldn't be fundraising for the core team only, but given sufficient resources ,also for DisCOlarships, a sister ‘DisCOTech’ DisCO, for underprivileged LABS to participate in the Journey, and to also fund projects ourselves. For this we need a clear vis-a -vis DisCO beneficiaries budget and a transparent pitch we can take to several funders to achieve a common goal.

6: Network [Reproductive]

‘Network’ here refers to our partnership work with other organizations (not funders), and with the communities we reach out to. Some orgs may choose to partake in the DisCO Journey, some may not, but the network is growing and highly valuable. This also includes work in social media and community building in the African Network. This kind of outreach also amplifies the four productive directions (Website, DJ, Films and Pink Paper) and can be done in conjunction with major, amplifying allies (Greenpeace, Regens United, etc). It will also be good to share our in-progress and future videos to see this network embodied with real people and voices. 

7: Care is Core [Reproductive]

Instead of inflexibly centering on the productive aspects of our proposal without regard to real human needs, processes and community input, we've done very well in giving ourselves time to heal from stressful, rushed, insufficient work of recent years and instead, to more mindfully work from the heart. What has transpired this year feels more honestly centered around care work and more future proof. We are better prepared than ever to concentrate on productive work because we are healthier, haven't burnt out, and have taken the time to listen to our communities and their various needs, treating them as co-creators not recipients. We can offer this care-oriented ethos to develop it actively as a Principle, but also core component of the DisCO Journey learning.

We Can’t DisCO, if DisCO is Without You 

In a recently published article for Culture Hack Labs entitled “DisCO: The Open Source Conspiracy” we ended with a shout out to anyone feeling the beat. It goes like this: 

Large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework.

David Fleming, Energy and the Common Purpose

In the spirit of play, we also describe DisCO as an Economic LARP (Live Action Role Playing Game). Play becomes economic reality when, to paraphrase David Graeber, value isn’t so much about who appropriates surplus value (the working class! The precariat!) but co-determining what value actually is and making our way there. This co-determination takes shape as the lore of the game: the agreements and structures of these economic alternatives. Referring to the David Fleming quote above, each DisCO creates its own game and rules, but always starting from their interpretation of the Seven DisCO Principles with an eye towards federation and compatibility with other DisCOs.
If you want to learn more about DisCO, check out our two publications: If I Only Had a Heart: a DisCO Manifesto (2019) and Groove is in the Heart, the DisCO Elements (2021), our website, socials and other resources.

Our own approach to building DisCO structures and tools is informed by the DisCO principles. Coming soon to DisCO will be a new, revamped website to make the model more instantly accessible with FAQs, media resources, Governance Modeling tools and an updated DisCO Journey. In the near future we want to facilitate hack-a-thons, dance parties, collaborative and remote art making, mail-art, contemplative computing and techno-spiritual practices.

As a practice-oriented framework aimed at small groups wanting to federate and make some noise together, DisCO derives its power from all participating communities who may want to dress up as DisCOs, while maintaining and boosting their own original aims and desires.

Another thing - are you down for the care and the work we need to escape from an Elon-methane-fueled cyberpunk apocalypse? Good, then you're invited to begin an affectionate, epistolary relationship with our  Cooperative, Distributed Powermonger: the DisCO CAT .

Finally, we have an appeal. DisCO needs more DisCOs. Please come visit to learn more and share with others who you think may find a good fit with our immodest proposals. If your group is ready, we invite you to dream, dance, and co-develop the tools to build economic counterpower together!

P.S.- Late breaking news - we've been funded for another year by One Project, and will be fiscally hosted here again in Open Collective, so you'll be hearing more from us in 2023!