Team Human (2019) is the relatively small digital media ecosystem comprising of a weekly podcast, a Twitter profile, a 200-page manifesto, and a vibrant community. Team Human seeks agency and social justice in the face of ‘runaway markets and autonomous technologies’ and describes itself as ‘media as cultural resistance and a path to social change’ (2019).
Both the podcast and manifesto (also called Team Human) were created by digital media theorist, Douglas Rushkoff whom MIT has called one of the world’s 10 most influential intellectuals (Rushkoff, 2018). Rushkoff won the Neil Postman Award for career achievement and his book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award. Marshal McLuhan and Neil Postman were involved in first describing media ecology as the study of media and individuals from an ecological perspective.
Team Human is similarly rooted in a critical awareness of how media technology and communication interact with human environments and social change (2018). Postman first used the term at a teachers conference in 1968 where he described media ecology as ‘the study of media as environments’ and urges these not as an additive but as ecological where ‘a new medium does not add something; it changes everything’ (cited in Scolari 2012, pp.204–225). These days, media ecology has evolved into ‘becoming less about apparatuses and solids, and more about waves, vibrations, streams, processes and movements’ (Goddard & Parikka 2011). With Subjectivity in the Ecologies of P2P Production (2011), Moore examines how the peer to peer (P2P) production movement is an example of the type of media ecology that promises ‘deep’ social, as well as mental change’ and Team Human fits this conception of an intentional, emancipatory P2P media ecosystem almost seamlessly.
The Team Human podcast series consists of about 100 episodes which are live events, virtual futures conventions, staged and recorded in town halls across the United States. The weekly podcast is self-described on its homepage as a community ‘striving to amplify human connection’ by ‘engaging in real-time, no-holds-barred discussions with people who are hacking the machine to make it more compatible with human life’ (2019). Team Human acts as a connector hub and its members are able to connect their energies and ideas with other aggregator hubs. Typical of recent guests to Team Human were the founders of the P2P Foundation which is an organisation that explores the ‘commons-oriented peer production and the ‘productive potential of communities and networks’ (P2P Foundation 2018).
Stacco Troncoso from the P2P Foundation Appearing on Team Human. Retrieved April 26, 2019, from https://teamhuman.fm/episodes/ep-68-stacco-troncoso-the-commons-is-the-glue/
This is a community kept robust and alive through cherishing difference and thriving on interconnection. Guests have included co-op organisers, academics, artists, permaculture enthusiasts, counter-culture pioneers and digital activists. Topics like the art and science of making sourdough bread or practicing permaculture act as metaphors and hint at a deeper ontological interconnected nature of everything. Permaculture, like Team Human, uses a set of design principles centred around whole systems thinking and patterns and resilient features observable in natural ecosystems (Mollison & Holmgren 1978). These worlds are constructed to act like fractals and provide inspirational windows into the potentials offered through an ecological, P2P, collaborative, participatory, next nature, digital media culture.
Viktor Zaunders appears on Team Human to discuss sustainable, regenerative, and collaborative local food systems and the lessons that can be applied to social systems at large. Retrieved April 26, 2019, from https://teamhuman.fm/episodes/ep-17-zaunders-permaculture/
In Insect Media (2010), Parikka analysed social organisation in insects from swarms, hives, webs, and distributed intelligence and how these have been used to structure modern media technologies and the network society. Team Human today offers a similarly radical perspective on the interconnections of biology and technology. These challenge traditional views on what is natural and artificial and show how ‘digital technologies and art expose the animal in the human being’ (cited in Rhizome.org 2011, para. 9). According to the Team Human manifesto, ‘what we are taught in school about how trees of the forest compete to reach the sunlight isn’t really true. They collaborate to reach the sunlight, by varying their strategies and sharing the fruits of their labour’ (Rushkoff 2019 p. 12). Like the bees, we are co-evolving with the technosphere, our planet.
Team Human uses a P2P Patreon crowdsourcing model to fund its activities in contrast to top-down models and was initially conceived and created for artists and the counter culture to thrive. Crowdsourcing is a model that fits Team Human’s agenda well to help with the costs involved in running a small volunteer organisation. Team Human currently has 244 patrons contributing a total $1,423 per month.
The Team Human Patreon Account. Retrieved April 26, 2019, from https://www.patreon.com/teamhuman
P2P is at the essence of Team Human and what Mather Fuller refers to as ‘media ecologies that allow for more dynamism between the relevant components, relationships and methods by which ecologies are co-created, often in response to a perceived absence of something in society, or as an attempted response to perceived social violence’ (cited in Goddard & Parikka 2011). Team Human is a good citizen.
Team Human often seems a lot like a secular post-religious cosmopolitan church of global citizens negotiating late modernity. The manifesto encourages listeners to focus on connecting with others in the face of the huge challenges anthropogenic capitalistic extractive tendencies which would isolate and fragment us in order to extract and monopolise:
An antihuman agenda embedded in our technology, our markets, and our major cultural institutions, from education and religion to civics and media. It has turned them from forces for human connection and expression into ones of isolation and repression. By unearthing this agenda, we render ourselves capable of transcending its paralysing effects, reconnecting to one another. (Rushkoff 2019, p. 12).
What follows in the Manifesto are ‘100’ statements about how human-created technologies, markets, and institutions offer ways to remake society in ways that foster humanity and connection. Team Human creates a kind of folklore of how the great Gaia mind offered in the early days of the web was supplanted by self-interested individualism and corporate interests. This occurred because we failed to see ‘humanity as one big, interconnected team’ where ‘the most successful of biology’s creatures coexist in mutually beneficial ecosystems’ (Rushkoff 2019, p. 11). This is essentially an argument about being connected, reflective and self-aware of how media technologies shape ecologies and an invitation to participate in shaping the future more democratically. Rather than amplifying power relations to create greater inequality, Team Human works to realise the technological and human potential a rallying cry for lost connection values lost like environmentalism, women’s rights, peer-to-peer economics, localism and holism which feature in its work.
The Team Human podcast hosts permaculture experts alongside digital media experts to explore connections, build community, and establish a permanent sustainable culture in the face of anthropogenic threats. In the process, Team Human explores the huge array of dynamic interrelations which can make up a small media ecosystem and presents emancipatory alternatives. As Team Human explores Media Ecology itself through transdisciplinary and ontologically, it is self-aware and intentional about the cultural next natures it creates.
About the author: Ricky Wright
I am an advocate for digital permaculture through creative intelligent design, collaboration, and collective action. Although I dabble in fermented food and aquaponics my passion is with digital media. Permaculturalists can participate in the digital revolution rather than surrendering the participatory potentials to the indifferent flow of capital, and autonomous runaway markets and algorithms. My work is about working with others to forge a sustainable future and create distributed media platforms, media ecosystems, up-to-date ethics, and work towards a permanent digital culture. Find practical examples on my blog; Communication Generation.
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Moore, P. 2011, ‘Subjectivity in the Ecologies of P2P Production’, The Fibreculture Journal, vol. 119, no. 17, retrieved 24 April 2019, http://seventeen.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-119-peer-to-peer-production-a-revolutionary-or-neoliberal-mode-of-subjectivation/
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Rushkoff, D. 2019, Team Human, WW Norton & Co, New York.
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Featured image: The Team Human Podcast puts on a very human face. Retrieved April 26 2019 from https://teamhuman.fm/product/team-human-t-shirt/