How can we bring worlds where we think as a ‘we’ into being, however, when we are forbidden from gathering in person due to social distancing measures and other government regulations? What kind of public spaces can be nourished on the Internet in a time of Big Tech, privatisation, extremist filter bubbles and government surveillance? Despite the considerable challenges, the possibilities for world-building in digital environments are plentiful – and in a post Covid-19 world, the most resilient spaces of mutual aid will be located not only online or offline, but instead blended across both.
As a community-engaged researcher, I have worked alongside a wide variety of creative practitioners across Europe, Canada and China – including artists, makers, crafters, hacktivists, curators, organisers and F/LOSS advocates – who are finding novel ways of fostering collective nourishment despite Covid-19 limitations by deploying digital affordances tactically. They do this by gathering across, between and amongst platforms, in ways that make new kinds of space. “We are safest this way,” Chinese crafters explained to me while we exchanged stickers on WeChat, a platform which is currently used by 1 billion people behind China’s Great Firewall, and it is true that the more diffused across online and offline gathering spaces a project is, the harder it becomes to track (Braybrooke 2019). By working across multiple content creation platforms from Reddit and Miro to Discord and Signal to disseminate ideas, gather, and make things together, community projects are building alternative futures with diverse users globally across multiple contexts, such as DAOWO, a transnational network of local arts and blockchain cooperatives who deploy decentralised and open technologies to reinvent the arts.
Collaborating across such diffuse terrains can be tricky, but it also fosters flexibility and creativity. Like the dérives of the Situationist International, who explored the streets of 1950s Paris as a way of inhabiting urban space by making “rapid passage through varied ambiences” in resistance to the daily routines of life under advanced capitalism, cross-platform co-creation can bring communities on the margins together to build alternatives on their own terms. The possibilities are diverse. Maker and DIY/DIT communities in the UK found creative ways to organise across offline and online spaces in the early days of Covid-19 to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line workers in response to the national government’s failure to provide enough supplies to hospitals (Richterich 2020). The Art Tech Nature Culture network, founded in response to a lack of public gathering spaces due to Covid-19, brings creative experimenters together on a classic email discussion list to plan artistic co-creations for post-lockdown times that foster ecological regeneration. The Fairwork project, meanwhile, has explored how workers around the world are starting to challenge the hegemony of gig economy platforms such as Uber by creatively deploying digital tactics to include subversion, disruption and the manipulation of algorithms in ways that produce fissures, or “moments in which algorithms do not govern as intended” (Ferrari & Graham 2021). These subtle exploitations of platform logics range from breaking platform rules outright (like rejecting job requests) to explorations of app loopholes and other kinds of disruption (like virtual picket lines). The #CovidCreativesToolkit offers one example of the many resources currently being developed by communities of practice such as these to suggest the kinds of platforms, strategies and tools that can be used for tactical organising across digital spaces.
Examples like these illustrate how mutual aid can proceed through creative interventions that foster collective care in times of crisis, and how the work of building alternative worlds need not involve reinventing the wheel. Instead, we can facilitate transformative ways of working, making and thinking together by experimenting with the possibilities of blended online and offline spaces in a spirit of play and subversion. By thinking tactically as a ‘we’ by fostering new collaborations between, across and amongst platforms, we also offer new ways of doing – the kind that make other kinds of worlds possible.
 FLOSS stands for Free/Libre Open Source Software, and refers to the community groups who build, maintain and advocate for free and open software, which is freely and openly available to everyone to use and build upon, and developed by communities of programmers, who work together to support and test it.
 Do It Yourself / Do It Together