Tag Archives: twitter

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.



Trademark and Patent Disputes

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has resulted in many differing legal and political issues.  Most of these disputes have revolved around first amendment rights to protest.  However, other legal controversy has come to light from the movement concerning trademark and patent disputes.

The College on Conference Composition Communication Intellectual Property Annual Report (CCCC-IP) is a publication in its seventh year of production.  This conference produces an annual report on techniques and etiquette of researching news media as well as research and teaching composition (Amidon 29).  The Occupy Wall Street Movement utilized social media techniques of organization that emulated methods used during the protest taking place in the Arab Springs (Amidon 29).  Various hashtag keywords such as #occupywallstreet, #occupywallst, #ows, or #occupy gained popularity as the movement grew.  Also, the Tumblr blog page “We Are the 99 Percent” fueled traffic, in turn further fueling the movement.

Although the social media followings on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are quantitatively substantial, Malcolm Gladwell argues their actual significance.  Gladwell claims that former examples of protest are bound on more concrete examples of injustice.  He states that social media organized protest are generally built on weaker ties and looser political platforms (Gladwell 4).  Social media allows individuals to connect to things of indirect significance compared to more hands-on methods of unity due to the convenience of social media. Thus, how does this loose organization of the movement through social media impact trademark legalities?

The social media popularity of the Occupy Wall Street Movement opened the door of capitalist opportunity deriving from the movement.  Many T-shirt and retail companies quickly entered the trademark or patent race in hopes to gain ownership rights to these phrases or keywords.  However, many involved in the movement openly opposed these trademark requests claiming that capitalist financial gain from the movement directly contradicts the movement’s focuses.  Moreover, over 55 trademark applications have been filed on variations of the term “occupy” (Amidon 30).  One, of which, in particular stemmed from a Rocawear T Shirt that read “Occupy All Streets”.  Rocawear affirmed that no proceeds from this T-Shirt would be shared with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  This raises an interesting debate, should the “occupy” title be allowed to be branded for financial gain?

Many argue no on the sole basis that no outside entity can claim ownership of this group created identity.  However, many can also argue that since there are no hierarchy of leaders involved with the movement that there is no individuals or group of people associated with the movement that could alternatively claim ownership.  The conclusion of the CCCC-IP’s annual report was that Trademark laws in conjunction with the 1976 Copyright Act protect political commentary or parody as free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Thus, in regards to the example of Rocawear, they halted production of the “Occupy All Streets” line due to the severe criticism received for failing to share proceeds with the movement (Amidon 30).  However, in a court of law, Rocawear could have definitely made a legitimate case as to the “Occupy All Streets” T-Shirt line being protected as intellectual property of political commentary (Amidon 32).  Gladwell’s writings support the opinion that if this movement was built on mechanisms outside social media, Rocawear’s situation would have a greater chance of being in violation of trademark or copyright infringements.

Andrew D’Amato

Gladwell, Malcolm. “Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” The   New Yorker. 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. <http://hnrs353.wikispaces.com/file/view/GladwellMalcolm.pdf&gt;.


Solidarity Fist

Solidarity Fist

The current avatar of the official Occupy Wall Street twitter account.

Twitter and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

When Jack Dorsey launched Twitter in July 2006, he intended it to be a tool used for individuals to communicate with small groups. Popularity quickly grew and it became both a forum for people to share their ideas, as well as a personal blog spot. Many organizations saw this as an opportunity to advertise their products or ideas through the easy to follow hashtags (#.) The twitter blog #numbers shows the exactly how the number of users and posts on twitter has grown since 2006. According to the post, Twitter was up and functioning for 3 years, 2 months and 1 day before it received its one-billionth tweet. Now, the service handles a billion tweets every week.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement saw this as the perfect opportunity to attract young people to the movement, and keep individuals across the nation connected to each other. As the New York Times points out on October 3, 2011, the Occupy movement was weak at first, with little organization and a heavy reliance upon Myspace, Facebook and Twitter to spread their message. Social networking sites were important mediums for the Occupy movement. According to the Huffington Post of October 2011, “In just one month, the Occupy Wall Street protests have grown from a few discontented citizens to a movement sweeping the globe, but its rapid pace of growth might never have been possible without a key tool for social connectivity: Twitter.” @OccupyWallSt is the official twitter account of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some cities also have their own twitter account, including @OccupyWallStNYC, @OccupyPhoenix or @OccupyLA. The hashtag, #OWS, allows for different accounts such as, @OccupyPolitics to be united with the different locations’ accounts and individuals. Currently the official of occupywallst.org (@OccupyWallSt) has over 150,000 followers and has made nearly 7,000 tweets.

There are different tactics that the @OccupyWallSt utilizes to share media with others. Their avatar is a black and white image of a clenched fist, known as the ‘solidarity fist.’ This image is used to evoke a sense of something strong and united. The Occupy movement chose an image that would give off a sense of anger and wrath because they were ready to fight. The background is a large image of thousands of people protesting in the streets of New York City. Once again this photograph creates a feeling of being united and strong. Although there are many different people coming from various backgrounds, they are still coming together to support one cause. The ticker in the top right corner lets people know that it is New York City they are showing. This photograph works to create a feeling of unison across a variety of people. The account’s description reads, “News and information about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Opinions tweeted do not reflect the occupation as a whole. Official twitter of occupywallst.org #OWS.” The left bar on the twitter page has an option to select images uploaded by @OccupyWallSt. When the user goes to this link they will find a large number of different photographs uploaded by different individuals. All of the images include a description and have something to do with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Photographs ranging from Occupy Boston to Occupy DC are featured. These pieces of medium are used to create a strong sense of the pressing nature behind the issue. What @OccupyWallSt cannot share in their tweets, they can express through the photographs they share. Some include:

Image tweeted @OccupyWallSt: Thousands strong at Union Square

An Arrest

Another photograph tweeted by @OccupyWallSt, an armless man being arrested

One man tweeted this image six months ago, tagging @OccupyWallSt with the caption, “#NYPD arrests an armless person? wtf #OccupyWallStreet.” The direct link to the photograph on Flickr shares numerous comments from people who were upset with what they thought was an unnecessary arrest.

It is important to remember that Twitter allows for one to talk about a movement or idea, whether the comment is positive or negative. The previously cited Huffington Post shares that “22 percent of tweets with #occupywallstreet supported the movement, while 11 percent were against it.” The @OccupyWallSt account or #OWS could be used by people who do not support the movement and therefore, the movement runs the risk of opposition using twitter to slow down or stop the spread of Occupy Wall Street.

Savannah R. Edwards

What We Have to Gain: Why Occupy Wall Street Defies the Laws of Social Psychology

It has been well established in the realm of social psychology that, when acting within a large group, individuals often become “deindividuated” (Ziller 344).  That is, the individual disappears within the group, and no longer feels the burden of individual responsibility.  This inhibition fuels behaviors that group members would not commit on their own, but because of the safety of a group identity, feel compelled to act in a way that is not consistent with the self (Ziller 344).  However, one important aspect of this theory is not as commonly discussed: when do individuals tend to deindividuate, and when do they choose to stand by themselves?

R.C. Ziller (1964) suggests that whether or not individuals take on the group identity depends on the level of reward or punishment offered by the actions of the group.  When a situation is likely to be rewarding, group members learn to individualize themselves within the group because they want to take credit for the actions that were or will be positively recognized.  Conversely, when the outcome is negative and involves punishment, individuals are more likely to fade into the group identity to diffuse responsibility among other group members.  With this set of parameters, Ziller brings about a compelling dichotomy to group dynamics.

In the Occupy Wall Street Movement, social media is commonly used to disseminate ideas and events quickly and efficiently to a large number of people, as is discussed in Wasik’s article.  Ziller’s theory can be easily applied to the movement and this use of social media forums, like Twitter.  The two types of action, based on reward and punishment, can be transparently overlayed onto the Twitter constructs of “Followers” and “Following” for any given individual involved in the movement to any degree (whether it be actively participating in the movement, or merely knowledgable that the movement exists). 

Occupy Wall Street protesters gather in New York City in October 2011.

On Twitter, individuals can “follow” other Twitter accounts so that they receive updates from these users.  In OWS, Twitter is used to quickly get the word out about events and other happenings within the movement.  By “following” OWS-related Twitter accounts, people become “deindividuated” within the group.  That is, the group associates with them, but the individual can choose whether or not to associate with the group by ignoring, endorsing, participating in, or condemning the tweet.  On the other side, this same user also has “Followers” of his or her own.  When a person chooses to tweet about the movement, he or she is making a conscious effort to individualize the self from the group.  That is, the individual is taking credit for and acknowledging membership within the movement.

R.C. Ziller’s theory applies to Twitter in that it hypothesizes that individuals at first choose to “follow” the movement-based Twitter account as an effort to ‘test the water.’  These individuals do not yet know whether the outcome of being in such a group will be rewarding or punishing, so they remain deindividualized.  Once an individual feels comfortable with the movement and feels that there will be some type of reward for being involved, he or she chooses to individualize the self by publishing or citing tweets that endorse or condemn the movement.  Thus, by tweeting, the individual takes credit for his or her stance. 

R.C. Ziller’s theory serves to teach us that it’s really all about the outcomes: if good things happen within OWS, individuals will likely try to take credit for themselves, while if bad things happen surrounding the movement, individuals disappear into the group identity.  This rapid fluctuation of loyalty to the cause makes OWS quite volatile: if people are not instinctually driven to remain loyal to the group when the group’s actions are rewarded, the movement is liable to fall apart as soon as it comes close to reaching a major success. 

Thus, it would be to the great advantage of the group to offer rewards beyond recognition for its members.  Here we see something that Ziller did not discuss in detail: the goal of a mass movement.  OWS retains strong members throughout its ups and downs because it promises to create change for those involved, i.e. the 99%.  Although social theories like that of R. C. Ziller are largely applicable to group protests, Occupy Wall Street proves unique in its enduring nature and promise to create change for its members.


Ample Networking

Logistics is the detailed management and coordination of a complex operation. In Ben Brandzel’s article, he examines claims made by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell adamantly states that online organization is not effective in creating long-lasting social progress. In other words, the background operations (flow of goods, information, and people) of prior grassroots movements trumps logistics implemented by today’s online Internet-enabled activism. Gladwell also argues how Internet activism is only able to result in small social changes, which lack the huge societal impact that riots and sit-ins did during the Civil Rights Era.

To completely dismiss Internet-driven social activism is ignorant. Gladwell states that the only promises that Internet and social media platforms can make are for an unparalleled flow of information and the potential for learning. What Gladwell failed to analyze is how even though the approaches to activism organization have altered throughout the past couple decades, the yielded ambition has not. Gladwell points out that organizing online promotes tapping into weak relationships. These relations should not be seen as weak connections, but as opportunities. Now, through Twitter, Facebook, and countless other social media platforms, one is able to tap into these “weak contacts” and make them acquaintances, in turn, enabling them to spread the word to their close friends. The Internet’s supposed only promise of flowing information is the upheld and manifested through the creation of a vast network of consciousness and engagement.


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.