Tag Archives: Social Media

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.



Three Little Pigs ad from The Guardian

Remind anyone of OWS and Occupy Our Homes, the Occupy group fighting against foreclosures? Maybe a little?

Even if it doesn’t remind you directly, it does speak to the prevalence of social media in OWS while employing some imagery of the protests (i.e. the protesters running into police lines.)

Good job Guardian. Well played.


Features of The Global Square: News Commons

In my last post I discussed the one of the features that The Global Square plans to present on their upcoming network, the Renaissance and Evolution Forums. The idea of their three main features as a whole is to, “provide expertise, reduce redundancy and allow global collaboration on the parts of the system which are of global interest” (The Global Square, 2012).  The next feature on their list is the News Commons.

News Commons:

The News Commons will be a Twitter-style micro-blog. The information that rapidly rolls on this ticker can be sorted by tag, region or source. Users will be able to post their own information, pictures or videos. Users will also be able to post events here with maps, calendars, and even legal documents if necessary. This feature’s purpose is to spread information that is important on global and local scales. Unlike Twitter and social networks with which we are familiar, the information on The Global Square’s News Commons is not meant for users to,” passively absorb it as a means of entertainment, or even education,” but instead acted upon to, “correct flaws in governance” (The Global Square, 2012).

The News Commons will theoretically serve as a means of raising awareness for worthwhile causes, and help to prioritize events rather than simply providing a useless string of unorganized information. Within OWS this could help resolve the disorganization and vagueness they have been accused of, while still holding true to OWS ideals. In fact, Melissa Bell claims that Occupiers were already speaking the language of social networking. She says, “Occupy protesters seem to have fully realized and implemented the lessons of a thousand message boards in a real-life community” (Bell). I believe The Global Square will further the efforts of Occupy Wall Street by embracing the same kind of non-hierarchical transfer of information.

Power Through Numbers?

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was a protest of a new breed. Fueled by mass marketing and messaging over social media sites, the original organizers were able to gain the world’s attention extremely quickly and spread their message rapidly. Although this may sound like the organizer’s dream- to reach millions of responders in minutes- this dream can easily turn into a nightmare.

Bill Wasik discussed in an article concerning flash mobs, groups that gather for a shared bond, have the potential to become uncontrollable and even violent. When the individuals become connected to the group, their feelings can become magnified and empowered. Power may come with numbers, but destabilization and disorganization follow. Waskik retells and an incident where the artist Kaskade tweeted for his followers to come to an impromptu block party. Only expecting about 1,000 fans to show-up, 5 times that amount came. When police became involved to help manage the size, a riot ensued. Within an hour, a seemingly innocent block party had turned into a dangerous disturbance.

OWS shared a fatal flaw to the Kaskade event; both eventually lost control to the masses that had responded. OWS’s message was an important one that needed to be brought to attention, and acted on, but as it grew stronger, the overwhelming response weakened the movement.



A slightly different use for social media

Most protest movements culminate in some sort of new law or government that satiates the masses. While the OWS movement has drawn attention from thousands if not millions across the globe, so far its most notable legislative accomplishment appears to be a ban on camping in McPherson Square. So, the question is, how does the movement get a response from the government?

Ben Brandzel concludes his critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s paper Small Change with the suggestion that we use social media as a tool to ‘beat back the blaze’ of corporate cash that is ‘running through our democracy like wildfire’. But how can we do that if the government has no Facebook page, twitter, etc.? Luckily we are a democracy and by engaging ourselves we may engage the government. If we can become engaged through social media in activities such as brainstorming potential legislation, informing people how to communicate with their representatives, explaining the legislative process, encouraging people to vote at all levels of elections (not just the presidential ones), we might stand a chance at making a dent in this thing. Just like social media can be used to send a ‘flash crowd’ to occupy a city, so it can be used to inundate a democracy with change—if the right tactics are employed.

The Efficacy of Physical Presence versus Electronic Presence

Protests have been around since man decided that things in his world needed to be changed. There is not just one particular type of community or society that is prone to protests, but rather, every society has seen some sort of movement calling for change. In Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Small Change” in The New Yorker, Gladwell recounts the Woolworth’s incident in Greensboro, North Carolina, where four black men sit at the counter designated for whites only. The protest spread in a matter of days to over a thousand people, by just word of mouth. Now, protests such as the Occupy Wall Street movement have gained supporters through social media and networking, such as Facebook and Twitter.  With so many people on the Internet these days, it is amazing how quickly news can spread. Facebook and Twitter have become some of the main ways for protesters to get their claims heard and to get more people involved. However, as Gladwell claims, just because a protest is supported on the Internet, does this make it more effective? What made the 1960’s civil rights protests so effective was that everyone involved was committed. Since anyone around  the world can join the Occupy Wall Street movement, perhaps people are interested in the movement, but are they willing to become committed to the protest? Perhaps the social networking and media perspective will only be useful on a broad platform, merely introducing people to the topic, and from there they can choose to become committed to the project or not.


Gladwell article: https://hnrs353.wikispaces.com/file/view/GladwellMalcolm.pdf