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A Virtual Art Community Is Thriving on Google Docs

Anyone can (and should!) add, edit and delete art on artist Matthew Britton's Google Docs-based online community, 'Art Squad.'

by DJ Pangburn
Nov 21 2015, 1:10pm

[Update: Since the publication of this article, Art Squad was removed from Google Docs for allegedly violating its Terms of Service. Says creator Matthew Britton, "[Art Squad] was averaging at least 50 participants at any one time for a good few hours. We had a good laugh. I respect Google's decision to spoil word processing for everyone and hope people continue to have art squads in the future.]

Google Docs is basically nothing more than Microsoft Word online, in the cloud and shareable. But what if its 'share' function could be subverted for to create a global interactive art project that could be freely tweaked by anyone? That’s the idea behind Art Squad, a Google Doc that features a combination GIFs, text, graphics, gibberish and... Bob Ross.

Unleashed by artist Matthew Britton, creator of the collaborative Microsoft Paint-esque drawing site PaintByUser.com, Art Squad is an attempt to create a community in a single document using tools that have been available to users for over a decade.

Screencaps via

Art Squad began as a kind of silly idea that never seemed to go away—the idea of creating a document on Google Docs that could be shared with the art world (or even the world), that could be added, edited and deleted by anyone,” Britton tells The Creators Project.

“Certainly, well it kind of follows on from PaintByUser.com,” he adds. “I've been interested lately in creating virtual environments in which participants can have an ephemeral exchange of ideas and expressions. I intend to make participants think about how they are using the web page and the tools at our disposal.”

See more of Matthew Britton’s work on his website.

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