Tag Archives: technology

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.



Occupy Wall Street is Nothing Special

But what do they want? – by Tom Tomorrow, Oct 2011

Much has been made of the OWS movement’s apparent lack of leadership and concrete goals, its direct-participation organization and the idea of occupation as a radical act, and its utilization of technology. Based on my own historical research and the research of my colleagues, it appears that in truth, the only unique feature of OWS as a protest movement/mass demonstration is the technology, and this is only because such technology (and the resultant social organization/attitudes) did not exist in the past and so comparisons in that regard are apples-to-oranges. So in response to the question of “What is Occupy Wall Street?” my answer – from a historical perspective – is that it’s, well, nothing special.

Kara, in her post “What is Occupy Wall Street?“, discusses how OWS’s organizational principles are in line with long-established principles of true anarchism: loose organization, consensus-based egalitarian leadership, addressing economic grievances, and raising awareness. In addition, anarchism “seeks to transition the old system into one that fits their needs,” as opposed to a thorough overthrow of the existing system.

Erin has observed that the Great Depression saw similar economic-injustice/class-based protests. Protests on that subject go back to the 1800s with Coxey’s Army marching on Washington, D.C.–then, as now, the protestors were widely perceived as a disorganized mob.

So in this regard, the only radical thing about OWS is the literally radical (root-based) organizational mentality.

Oakland – Indigenous People’s Resistance Day 2011

OWS’s use of the word “occupy” is another radical, original action that the movement is credited with – yet this blog post, by somebody self-identified as unaffiliated with the movement, highlights how OWS has only been employing a superficial sense of the word. To be situated in, to engage, to take possession of. The movement as a whole has not been engaging with the highly problematic history of the word as a key referent to white colonialism and oppression. Sophie Lewis suggests that, since the word is now so entrenched, people should consider actually radicalizing the concepts espoused–in other words, actually pursuing equality for all, rather than reinforcing various forms of oppression such as cissexism and the erasure of people of color. The Albuquerque movement, happily, is one example of an active attempt at true radicalization: it has chosen to call itself “(un)Occupy” to more accurately reflect the goal of decolonizing the 1%. If such cases of true radicalization (e.g. discussion of social privilege) become more widespread and even part of the popular discourse, then OWS could be said to have more of a unique aspect to it.
(Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations also applauds the Denver movement, and her whole post is worth reading in addition to Lewis’s writing.)

With regards to technology and OWS – my comparison of the Kent State shootings and the November, 2011 pepper spraying at UC Davis revealed that, while the internet is more “immediate and personal” than other media, images from the Kent State shootings spread just as rapidly after accounting for the built-in delay of media development. Therefore, it seems unfair to say that OWS is a wholly new form of protest due to the inclusion of instant-communication technology; rather, it is simply a protest of its time, of a society infused with current technology, just as previous protests were products of their technological means. Coxey’s Army did not have television or radio coverage to help speed the dissemination of its message like the social justice and anti-war/nuclear protests of the 1950s-60s; were the mid-20th century protests new forms of protests because they had ham or CB radio available for popular use (cf. twitter) or television to help get their message out to the public faster?

One could argue that there have always been “slacktivists” – people who say they support the cause, but don’t actually get themselves out there to do anything. Is writing letters to the editor, for example, a form of pre-internet slacktivism? Attending the big, publicized protest but not any other events? Wearing a shirt with the anti-nuclear symbol (now known as the peace sign) and leaving it at that? I am skeptical of claims that “Facebook activism” is somehow worse than previous ways of failing to commit to a cause.

In conclusion – OWS is just another protest that may or may not end up being effective the way it intends, like the Alcatraz occupation with which (surprise) OWS shares its current momentum thus far.

Cody VC

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.

Social Responses in Historical Context

One of the earliest well-known instances of populist, organized protest in the United States is the case of Coxey’s Army in 1894. A contemporary New York Times article covering its genesis emphasizes the presence of “tramps,” including a “colored man” locked up before “his comrades [could] attempt to invade the town”; suggests that Jacob Coxey is disreputable; and uses the term “well-informed” to describe people denigrating Coxey’s efforts. Part of all this is arguably due to the generally spontaneous nature of the march–Coxey’s uncertainty of when people will show up is mocked and the comparatively sudden massing of people is played down as a threat to the establishment.

Similar elements can be seen in responses to the Occupy movement and its organizational kin. Bill Wasik describes how today’s easy access to instant communication technology makes spontaneous popular protests possibly more effective than before such technology existed; tools such as internet/text/BBM messaging allows for better coordination (cf. the Enfield riot) and are seen as largely unstoppable due to how wide-ranging they can be, which contributes to public fears. The internet in particular helped to rapidly spread Occupy’s Tumblr images, “the visible symbol of the giant, subterranean mob of Americans struggling to get by,” and Wasik’s use of “mob” here is telling–the danger he describes as seen in “a disconnected group getting connected” is not so different from the danger seen in Coxey’s Army.1


1: Wasik, 10-11.