Food For Thought: Technology's Role in The Occupy Movement
An article from The Atlantic should give anyone in the media industry some nourishing food for thought as they digest their turkey and stuffing this Thanksgiving. Nathan Jurgenson's short essay, "The Implicit Critique of Technology in the Occupy Protests" is not so much about how the occupy movement rejects technology (we have seen numerous examples of protesters using social media to promote their cause, for instance) as it is an observation of the way a group has chosen to use the multitude of communication platforms available today to spread a message on precisely its own terms.
Some of the low-tech solutions utilized by the protesters, such as the "People's Microphone," are classic examples of ingenious ways to get around legal roadblocks (in this case, the banning of megaphones in Zuccotti Park). More important, however, is the physicality represented by tents, noise, cooking (and other) smells ... and print. Because, as Jurgenson notes, occupation of space is central to the message, it makes perfect sense that protesters would create libraries and newspapers and post pictures of handwritten signs on Tumblr rather than simply typing those messages in. The distinction between using a medium to spread a message, and the message itself (which includes the important fact that one is standing in a park, holding a sign), is maintained.
The protesters are not Luddites (few people really are). They simply take what is useful from the technologies around them to maintain the integrity of their message, as they see it. There are lessons here for publishers. I'd love to hear some ideas on what those might be.
Click here to read Jurgenson's article.