October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
I asked a cop if this protest looked special. “I’ve seen plenty of these,” he replied.
But the prospects looked better when Alexa O’Brien came up to me with a bright smile. (She’d decided I was all right.) This protest didn’t have to be big. It was a first step and a chance to try new methods and technology. “We’re learning,” she said. In particular she was excited about open-source software called Ushahidi. Using the website (displayed on her 3G iPad), email, or text messages, protestors can report anything they see–police, the size of crowds, Wi-Fi hotspots, public restrooms–and also get the latest updates so they can reorganize on the fly.
#Occupywallstreet was potentially a step to bigger things for her, especially the Oct. 2011 Washington rally which would happen soon.
But as we walked the financial district, she kept rattling off surprising stats. She wore an iPhone headset the entire time, on a conference call with “people I trust, monitoring what’s going on,” she said cryptically. Mostly, they were telling her about rankings on Twitter. “#DayofRage and #USDayOfRage are in the top 10,” she said. #sept17 remained popular for a while. And #fuckwallstreet came from nowhere to be a top hashtag, then quickly disappeared.
I’d love to know more about the technologies and techniques protesters are using to “organize” OccupyWallSt. Social media were used in the UK to coordinate time and place for an otherwise roving and formless mob. Here, social media are not just a means of communication but of publication also. Information shared is not just transmission of a gathering point and time, but serves a more organizational purpose. Is it used also to involved the outside public? Does it function well as a means of crafting an organizational identity? Or of capturing points of view? Is it event-based, or does it serve other roles also: archives, members, knowledge-base, advice, expertise, communication channel, PR, media strategy? Or are these too “organized?” It will be interesting to watch.