I tried staying overnight at Dragon Army for a few days, to get a sense for what it might be like to live there.
Here is a summary of my takeaways / general impressions.
Masculine, boyish culture. A little like a summer camp / a college dorm without a party culture. Somehow feels like an okay place for a young Howard Roark.
Group conversations are loud, interrupt-y, fast-paced. Full of quips. Not particularly high-brow or low-brow. Medium-brow?
Conversations often center around concrete "topics." Facts are exchanged. Propositions are examined and debated. Google is a nearby tool.
But also, feelings. Not ironically either. Real, straightforward expressions of feelings. People's feelings aren't very loud in their expression. At least not by default.
Given the overt masculine feel to the place, there is also a surprising? amount of touch. Cuddling. Massages. (I probably pushed for more of this, so maybe there would've been less if I hadn't been around.)
Excitement over ice cream, anime (My Hero Academia), figuring out who's right about a thing, new faces.
The physical space feels cramped and "not pretty."
There isn't enough sunlight.
Kitchen is homey, tidy, and warm. Living room is not, likely b/c of folding chairs and tables and white walls + sometimes being kind of cramped. Sound bounces, and it gets loud quickly.
There is comfort in the form of soft blankets and rugs and really nice backjacks. But I wouldn't say it's cozy. It's a barracks, not a hippie commune.
There is a sense of fraternity. They are supportive, to the left and right. They respect each other. They treat each other like agents, by default. No one feels exalted, or patronized.
They are quite individualistic, with a flat hierarchy. But also willing to help. But not overly helpful. Not coddling.
One result of this was that lots of interactions had an undercurrent of being transactional. By that, I don't mean there was explicit negotiation or exchange. But an implicit sense that asks should be 'within reason' or 'beyond reason with expectation of future returns/extra goodwill.'
RE: Social roles. No one is the cute one. No one is the maternal one. No one is the sexual one. The soil feels, not hostile to, but infertile for these feminine archetypes to bloom.
To me personally, it gave me a dry, crunchy feeling. Where I was wanting more moist, soft. (Or, dry could be fine, but dry like a smooth stone, not dry like gravel.)
Sex is a weird thing here. Like it mostly doesn't seem to happen. Potential roommates ask about it, and the answers are often 'shrug' with an awkward chuckle. People in the house seem more on the demisexual or asexual end of the spectrum.
Nudity, however, is theoretically above-average welcome, with some opt-in nude house events.
People exercise. Everyone seems to have a pull-up bar on their door. There are things to climb on distributed throughout the house. There are weights. People go running.
People have hobbies. Legos, video games, card games, building things, coding, electronics, anime, cooking, martial arts. And more!
There is lots of art on the walls. My favorite is "trauma corgis," as we affectionately call them.
It is easy to be around people, if that's what you're into. I suspect it's also easy to not be around people, if that's what you're into.
Overall, I don't think the culture is quite suitable for Lauren-shaped creatures.
Staying at Dragon Army felt like 'work'. It wasn't like entering a warm bath after a long day. It was more like entering the sandbox at the playground. Kind of entertaining and engaging, but stressful in its own way.
I enjoy being in it sometimes, so I visit more actively now.
My favorite times, though, are when things are quiet, and there is physical affection. I like watching things together or Circling. Or when people are quietly working together—sorting legos or reading or whatever. It might be nice to bake or cook together one day.
When it gets loud or rambunctious, I tend to withdraw and feel small.
I like all the people individually.
I enjoyed making observations about their culture because it is distinctively "something." Rather than "nothing." It is fun to analyze, for me.
I do not claim authority here over what things are "actually like" in some objective sense.
These are my impressions based on what stood out to me and what I personally was inclined to pay attention to. So view everything I said with a "This is all through a Lauren-colored lens."
I tried actively to be more neutral than otherwise, in my descriptions.
I'm in Dragon Army now, writing this as some folks play a big, complicated board game. I wish to hug them, but they seem embroiled.
I stayed at DAB after the official experiment ended. So maybe it was different before.
One thing I would not describe DAB as is 'militaristic.' But maybe I missed the relevant window to judge that. Anyway, when I was there, Duncan wasn't really dictator anymore. Really, the hierarchy felt flat to me. To the extent that I felt uncomfortable with how flat it was.
It's true that there is something like an outsized effect of a couple of people on the social dynamics, the aesthetic, and the vibe. But there is a lack of large power differential, in the sense of who takes up conversational space, who makes decisions, and who wins arguments. Plenty of arguments end in accepting standstill. (Y'know, like in real families.)
I also did not see any instances of them 'casually or problematically violating consent.' I think they're more bark than bite here. :P
Also they seem overall like pretty non-violent people. If any of them care to use violence, it would probably be to protect someone else. I imagine others wouldn't use violence even for that reason.