Taking Up Space with Paff Evara

Highlighting blind spots within current mass media supply chains, Take Up Space proposes an alternative, community-driven, model that is intersectional, and equitable for all – “a media that you can see yourself in”

Feature by Cammy Gallagher | 08 Nov 2023
  • Paff Evara

Mass concentration of media ownership has been a constant since the steam press instigated the commodification of information as news. A minority of monopolies own the majority of worldwide outlets, swaying which stories are spread, and in which light. This has led to a watered-down output across a communications industry catered towards a majority audience, whilst the representation of underserved individuals rests with ever-struggling independents. In an exclusive conversation with The Skinny, Paff Evara of Take Up Space (TUS), highlights blind spots within current mass media supply chains, proposing an alternative, community-driven model that is intersectional, and equitable for all – “a media that you can see yourself in.”

Co-founded in February 2022 by Evara and partner Hannah Peacock, TUS are a community-owned culture house seeking to bring forth a new era of decentralised media that empowers BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices. Based in Edinburgh, the initial duo has since blossomed into a wide collective of creatives, writers and storytellers across the globe. Growing up in Australia, the birthplace of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Evara highlights an ownership foothold, both back home and here, spread across a handful of companies and subsidiaries: “You can start to see there is a homogenous lens applied to stories.”

This money-centric model aligns the success of pitches with their exchange value, meaning a mainstream narrative dominates perpetually. However, given the rise of the creator economy post-COVID, Evara highlights how “we're starting to see this shift towards more direct ownership,” noting the “autonomy to create more authentically” afforded by subscription-based services such as Substack or Patreon. Still, despite social applications democratising mass distribution, their polarising success-style metrics – prioritising volume over content – make it tough to imagine a trajectory excluding algorithms, brand deals, and ultimately diluted authenticity. Being a content creator, Evara understands current limitations in creators' pathways. “I love TikTok. I saw, first-hand, the power of storytelling and community and belonging,” yet despite generating millions of views for the platform, “I barely earned any money from it, they’re the ones extracting all the value.”

TUS exists primarily on the internet, and draws upon Web3 tools to fund co-created endeavours through a shared bank account. The treasury is subsidised by members minting Founders Token NFTs (designed by Fat Baby), which grant access to the group's Discord where owners can contribute towards communal interdisciplinary projects. As the lines between audience and 'artist' increasingly blur within the nascent blockchain space, Evara emphasises the “need for as many people as possible at the ideation phase… that's when you spot opportunities for new stories and new scenes to platform.” In forming their (sell-out) flagship event, CreatorThon – a two-day virtual summit comprised of expert social panels – initial ideas were envisioned across weekly “jam sessions”, suggesting potential subjects, speakers, and outcomes – “it was a true labour of co-creation.”

When working within an inherently financialised space, “you do feel the ups and downs with the market,” but Evara convincingly details “interesting use cases of the technology that do make sense” such as the ability of smart contracts to enable “an environment that is permissionless.” This means whatever conditional statements are coded into the blockchain's ledger – such as creator royalty splits – will be auditable and fulfilled permanently, “ensuring all creators and contributors are fairly compensated for their work.”

With plans to realise all of the aforementioned on a platform of their own, uniting their fragmented outreach through developing a seamless platform – “where you don't have to learn all the jargon” – that allows audiences to collect and support media, the duo are tapping into new user behaviour “where people want to collect and show they were here for this moment, while directly funding creators.”

With a physical zine (via Leith printmaker Out of the Blueprint), merchandise, and IRL events in the pipeline, TUS have set their sights on increased local integration moving forward. Noting particular admiration for Intercultural Youth Scotland and Spit It Out, the collective now set their sights on serving the communities in and around them. “I think we went everything online first," Evara says, "which was awesome, but there's something really magical about meeting people face to face, building in a more grassroots manner.” Evara and Peacock actively aspire towards a decentralised communications industry, where it’s possible to make and monetise honest media, whilst taking up space as your most authentic self. “We're not just highlighting culture," they say, "we're building it ourselves.”

Find out more about Take Up Space at takeupspace.io