The Outwork is a movement, manifesto, toolkit, and practice aimed at throwing off the yoke of social media enslavement that controls the content, conversations, and culture of our age. The international technocracies led by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, et al - were founded and continue to be staffed and dominated by the cis-het patriarchy, if not always in appearance, then in attitude.
We declare that the work of the network is to get Out. This is the Outwork.
I remember my introduction to the internet in the late 90s. As a repressed queer trans girl living in small town Massachusetts, the unmoderated chat rooms of AOL were my early freedom. Yet even these existed within the walled gardens of corporate empire. As they collapsed into the proliferation of profile and platform that began with Live Journal, Myspace, and Tumblr and ended with Facebook's domination, our data become owned, marketed, and profit on. This data - our words, our images, our demographics, our interactions, our desires, our relationship status, our uniqueness - became a tool to sell a mutilated image of ourselves back to us.
Yet the value of social networks also cannot be dismissed. They have connected us internationally on a social and emotional scale unprecedented in human history. They have enabled the widespread sharing, organizing, and dissemination of information. The have allowed those previously isolated to find their tribes, often distributed far across the globe.
The networks, despite their grand promises and occasionally shining benefits, are ultimately all inward facing. They exist as their own walled gardens. They are hegemonic spaces, policed by corporate autocrats with no oversight, care, or incentive to advocate for the social and emotional welfare of their users.
The Outwork is a call to reclaim the intention of the World Wide Web. We recognize the potential in the fundamental concept of social networks. We seek to create a toolkit, practice, and ethics for the creation of personally owned independent publishing platforms that privatize the social node of the profile within our own domains. We leverage existing technology to create strong and weak ties to other creators. We seek not to own the network - the Outwork cannot be owned.
We claim the right to own our own content. We claim the right to publish it within our own domains. We claim the right to monetize it through our own systems. We claim the right to the sanctity of our messages. We claim the right to notify those who care for us. We claim the right to subscribe to those we care about. We claim the right to privacy. We embrace the courage of vulnerability.
The work of building a new future without the dominance of the social media giants is not in the creation of a new network that does it “right” this time. There will never be a better way to build insular spaces. We embrace porosity. We assert our rights to set our own boundaries. We appoint ourselves as the creators, moderators, and propagators of our own domains.
The technology exists to enable each of us who is inspired to create, publish, own, and monetize their own content. We can communicate directly with their followers - via email, SMS, voice, and video. We can create meaningful intimacy with those that discover, interact with, and love our work.
To the social media empires of the world: We, the content creators of the world, are Out.
What practices do you advocate?
We believe that creative content is limitless. But that good content is always the result of a filter on the source. If we want to produce more good content, we must produce more bad content. We reject the fake veneer of perfectionism we experience on Instagram. We reject the hiding behind the short quipy remark on Twitter.
We build our practice one day at a time. We write, shoot, play, dance, draw, paint, and create for ourselves first. We retain our right to all our work as our own first and last client.
We commit to sharing our practice outwards. The products of our work are our own. Yet we believe that our commitment to an outward facing practice cultivates the courage of vulnerability that we wish to see in the world.
We post every day about our work. Not about what we want it to be (unless we want to). Not about what it should be (unless it has to). Not about what it isn’t. We present what is and has been. We attempt to show up as our full selves, standing proudly in the presentations of our imperfections.
What does the Outwork actually do?
We publish content, courses, workshops, and coaching about creating independent publishing platforms using tools that do not own your content or data. The platforms we create replicate many of the features of traditional social media, and introduce many that far exceed them. We seek not to build new technologies and behaviors, but use the ones we already have.
The profile - the blog
The feed - email
Direct Messages - text messages
Following - subscribe to someone’s blog
SMS Communication and Notifications
The use of programmable SMS, email, and voice systems allow for automated notifications in channels that are still intimate and two direction. IE. We can give you a cell number that can automatically text someone a question that signs up for your workshop, they text back their answer, and you can text back. We see these systems as opportunities for building friends, not followers, and encourage their use with healthy respect for their potential for aggravation and abuse.
Is the Outwork Free?
The ideas of the Outwork are and always will be free. The specific implementations and the tutorials, workshops, and coaching that teach them are paid.
We reject the idea that we must finance our creative work through our slavery to the capitalist patriarchy. We assert the value of our work, our content, and we ask that you support us directly. We reject revenue models based on advertising, on data mining, on covert sales funnels. We aim to create clear boundaries in our work between that which we offer for free and that which we offer in exchange for money.
We aren’t in this to get rich. We see money as a tool that enables us to amplify our reach and allow us to be of service more effective in pursuit of our goals - the freedom of content ownership and creation that was the early promise of the internet.
How do I join the Outwork?
You are a part of The Outwork the moment you make the decision to move your process outwards from social networks. You can signup for our daily mailing list here, and get access to the paid tutorials that will walk you through creating your own platform here.
Who are you?
The Outwork was and is a channel of the artist Scarlet Dame. She identifies as a queer trans woman and lives a polyamorous and polyurbanic life that always seems to return to New York City. Her work as a creator centers around music, synthetic identity, and meta discussions of the creative process. Her personal node in the Outwork can be found here.
What technologies does The Outwork suggest in its toolkit?
We prefer technologies that are simple, easy to use, and effect. As above, we recognize that the creation of software is value, as such we appreciate and promote paid software that follow what we consider to be ethical practices. We do not encourage or promote technology that requires extensive technical knowledge or that isolates the user from traditional systems (like the blockchain). We use technology that does not require any knowledge of programming to achieve its functional purpose (and we encourage the exploration of its edges where customization can open new worlds).
The technical stack of the Outreach Consist of the following fundamental components. We present suggestions and tutorials using specific examples, but the principles can be applied to a variety of tools.
Blogging Engine - Ghost
Data Collection - Typeform
No Code Connection - Zapier
SMS Provider - Twilio
Communications - FrontApp
Payments - Stripe
Process Management - Notion
I don’t have any experience with technology, how do I do this?
The Outwork is designed for you. We spent careers in technology to figure out which tools to use to replicate the functionality of social media in a way that you can own the whole thing yourself. Once setup, it’s no harder to use than the software you’re used to. We’re here to help. We offer tutorials, workshops, preconfigured software, and private coaching designed to help you create your own publishing platform.
But I still want/need to post my work to facebook/instagram/twitter/tiktok?
We do not believe in the creation of new walled gardens. We believe the work is turning outwards. As such we seek to position our own platforms upstream of the social networks. We allow a filter version to flow through their gates, seeking to understand what we gain in exchange for the agency we lose in the process.
The profile - the blog
The feed - your email
Direct Messaging - text messages
Following - subscribe to someone’s blog
SMS Communication and Notifications
We believe that the goal of all outward communication is to facilitate the direct experience of interpersonal intimacy. We don’t wish to have distant fans. We want friends. We seek to create technology that moves up the ladder of intimacy as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Each step in the ladder allows us to define our own social, emotional, and technical boundaries. We advocate awareness, safety, and caution when letting others into your intimate communications. We seek to understand the tools available, not control them.
Blog Subscribe form (typeform)
Adds contact to frontapp and texts to say hey
We seek to setup automated communication systems, but never to create channels that don’t allow for bidrectional communication between real humans.
- All emails should have a reply to address that reaches a real person
- All text messages should be over a channel that allows for replies (no shortcodes that only send notifcations).
It is our opportunity to create systems that allow us to cope with the scale of the audience that we wish to create. We reject that we cannot create boundaries that preserve personal time, schedule, and agency. In this pursuit:
- We reject the expectation of instantaneous (or any) reply - our words are not contracts that enslave us to the desires of others for further communication
- We define our own standards for “timely”
- We choose our own level of availability and attachment to our own platforms - we are not indebted to any prior schedule, rule, or expectation beyond our own.