Occupy Portland continues to evolve, as the various committees find more “permanent” shelters and locations, and infrastructure acclimatizes itself to what endless street-siege really means.
There’s lots of thinks to discuss; far more than there is time to discuss them, as there are toilets to be cleaned, and over in Sanitation (where I seem to be finding my more regular home, except for today and tomorrow, which I am taking off) the compost is always piling up. But I want to devote a moment to a topic that keeps cropping up, about which I had a Twitter conversation this morning. That is: radical inclusivity facing off against exclusivity.
The conversation was prompted by this tale of a border-fascist group (the exact organization of which is disputed, but I feel comfortable calling what smells like it, it) showing up Occupy Phoenix, and how the confrontation went down.
The subject of the conversation that proceeded was whether or not the writer of the account took more time to berate allies than condemning the fascists, and whether this was an alienating, divisive act or not, of a kind that might splinter or fracture the growing occupation movement.
Setting aside the fact that the written account seemed to be aimed at confronting the movement itself after the fact for it’s lackluster response to fascism, whereas the actual confrontation with the fascists occurred at the event; I think this is a good cautionary tale not only for dealing with fascists, but also for dealing with a certain passive dynamic of human groups.
Note I’m saying “human groups”, not liberals, sheeple, or any degradatory term for any particular sub-culture of leftists I don’t happen to agree with. Because all of us feel the impetus for general peacefulness and calm in the face of any aggression (I hope). But, it is also appropriate to set passivity aside and raise ones voice at times. That’s the whole point of protest, after all.
I myself have encountered this necessity in Portland, thankfully not in the presence of armed paramilitaries, but to counter the force of what I’d call “passive exclusivity”, as opposed to the active kind that carried assault rifles.
Several motions have been raised both in the GA and other assemblies, proposing some form of “exclusivity”. Mostly, in terms of kicking out “certain elements” from the occupation camp. The term “riff raff” has actually been used. I think we all know what is being referred to here. There are people at the occupation who, for whatever reason, are not comfortable with the look of some of their fellow occupiers. For the time being, we’ll just pretend this is an unfortunate, unconscious bias, and not read it as a symptom of any form of class or race antagonism, just because that’s not really the point of what I’m writing (though we should get into that at another time).
Often this exclusivity crops up in discussion of work. While working in the dish line the other night, a guy came up to us and thanked us for our hard work. Then, he preceded to tell us how we shouldn’t serve food to people who don’t volunteer. Regardless of the fact that I’ve never seen that individual doing anything around the camp, I am proud to say we working Sanitation at the time sent him away with an earful.
While it might seem, according to the sort of common sense logic that gives the 53% people a position of ego on which to stand, that “work ought to be a prerequisite for reward”, it is also the beginning of the capitalist exchange, the end point of which is class-based division of labor, and exuberant salaries based on the so-called “importance” of the work being done.
There is only one reason to work, in the Occupation camp, or elsewhere: that is because there are tasks to be done. And there are only tasks that support a single (though, admittedly loosely construed) goal: to make sure everyone is taken care of. The alternative is social Darwinism of a lethal kind. And as long as I work as part of the Occupation, it will be an occupation that includes everyone willing to take part, even if the way in which they take part is only showing up to be fed. When we say this is a leaderless movement, i hope we also mean this is a classless movement. There is no privileged working class above an unemployable class–there is only all of us, part of the same humanity.
To a lesser but no less real extent, I’m also seeing a similar exclusivity occurring between different committees, among individuals who haven’t fully grasped the radical class conception of the occupation. Last night a medic told me he didn’t have time to sort his committee’s garbage because “he had to get back to work.” I asked him what he thought we at Sanitation were busy doing, if it was not work? I obliged him with the favor of sorting his recycling, because he truly was in a hurry, but I think this language slip shows a sort of passive exclusivity, a division of thought that slips back in to our way of thinking, if we don’t unlearn what capitalism has taught us to believe as axiomatic truths, and take it upon ourselves to gently but vociferously correct our fellows when they slip up.
Another big way this exclusivity crops up at the Portland occupation is on the subject of “safety”. Last night a proposal was brought to the GA that would give the Safety Committee (a great, historically-aware name, no? It shouldn’t surprise that this committee is often mis-named as “Security Committee” in practice) the ability to escort people consuming drugs or alcohol out of camp. Safety is an issue at the Portland occupation; we’re fortunate enough to not have to deal with police on an hour-by-hour basis, but the flip side of this is that there have been aggressive incidents with individuals we’ve had to deal with ourselves.
However, the wording of the proposal makes it an easy way to roust undesired members of the community at the will of others. There are many people dealing with addiction that are enjoying the safe space of our camp. There are also those with disabilities who make look unpleasant to some, and speak as if intoxicated, but are productive members of the community. Any of these people might be kicked out of camp by this proposal at the whim of a more articulate person.
I offered an amendment to change the proposal to deal with the actual concern: violent, aggressive behavior by those who are intoxicated. I’m still uncomfortable that I had to offer this amendment. It seems obvious to me how a security procedure might be abused. And yet, the crafters of the proposal, as honest and concerned as their intentions may have been, were unconscious of the way this proposal might be used to segregate our community. (The GA ran out of time on this proposal, so it will be recrafted to accommodate my and others’ concerns, and offered to the GA anew.)
All of this is to make a point: sometimes it is easy to see those that would introduce oppression and exclusivity into a community, and other times it is not. But to keep a community inclusive, especially a community such as our that is building and rebuilding itself daily, it takes the radical step of confronting this exclusivity, regardless of the intention and the source. We need people to speak up and remind us of our privileges, and how they affect our self-governance. We need people to openly reject those who consider it “isn’t an important issue”, or pass it off as a potentially divisive issue. What is far more divisive than speaking to people displaying passive exclusivity openly and honestly, and defending our community against fascism is allowing it to sleep peacefully within our nascent movement.
We’ve made a start that is very inclusive. Part of our hard work will be keeping it so, as we grow.
Posted: October 16th, 2011
, Occupation Notes
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There are many things that ought to be said about the Occupations that are not being said.
Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that there are many things about the Occupations that are being said; though, those I believe are most important are not being said within range of the human microphone. Neither the human microphone of the GA, nor the human microphone of the blogosphere, which sees generally agreeable sentiments by writers and thoughtful people echoed and rebounded off of this claimed, political public space, much like the one out there in the street.
If only it was so simple that what I mean is that I am the one with things to say that I’m not hearing said. Then I could compose an essay, yell it out to the world on my blog, and then wait to hear if there was any echo at all. But it is not just me, but many other people who are saying things under their breath, or only to their fellows in the dish washing line, or to a crowd of only fifteen or twenty half-interested people just waiting for their turn to speak. And I can’t speak for them. They can’t necessarily speak for themselves. They could speak at the GA, and many of them do–but the substance of what is said would necessarily change.
There is the sort of speaking one does when one is addressing a crowd, and there is the sort of speaking one does when one is cleaning a bathroom used by over 500 people. There is discussion, and there is consensus, and there are demands. And then there is work, and sweat, and fatigue. There is enabling of subaltern voices. And then there is un-thanked volunteerism.
There is no doubt in my mind that the latter is what makes a revolution. A protest is a raising of the voice, but a revolution is a made with the hands. And that is why Occupy Portland, the occupation in my hometown, is certainly a revolution. And this revolution is a revolution of problems.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about “direction”, both on the internet and off. It’s what I’ve pejoratively begun calling “directionalitarianism”. Everyone is “concerned” about the lack of direction in the “movement”. Well, yes. Lack of direction is all of our concern, and it is why we’re in the streets. We’re concerned about the lack of direction facing our generation, and people of the majority class. The direction we’ve proposed is occupation. You want to see coherent demands? Look at the occupation camp. That is the demand. The demand is to make something, by volunteerism alone, with only contributions: not loans, constituent-rights granting donations, share-holders, parties, or voting blocs. This is a revolution about problems. The problems are debt, corruption, exploitation, and so forth. As well as lazy hangers-on, co-opting political elements, the moralizing effect of “mainstream society” and its government and police force, personal addiction, mental health, the cold, the wet, and sheer fatigue from working so hard without tangible reward. The revolution is combating these problems ourselves, with nothing but what we have, and have together. This is the only direction we need, because it is what we are dealing with. And if you look at the people working, you can see this direction inside of each of their muscles. In each of these hard-working hands, is more phalanxes of bristling riot cops than any public budget could throw at us.
But enough of these words. Let me relate to you some of the things being said through hard work, and some of the problems being confronted by our revolution here in Portland. I won’t be able to speak these voices–you’ll have to go down to the camp yourself to see it. But I can at least show you a few pictures. And maybe, you can see the scope of the problem we’re facing, and how we might begin to tackle it.
Brief intro: the GA has empowered certain committees to work under their own guidance for certain goals. I’ll start my little tour with these committees, because they are the most obvious locations of work and progress at the camp, and also excellent starting points for anyone arriving at the camp, and wanting to know where to pitch in.
The kitchen is the biggest area of the camp. I estimate it serves at least one thousand meals a day, for free. Most of the contributions dropped off at the camp are food, and these are distributed, prepared, and served here. They kitchen staff are all registered Food Handlers in the state of Oregon (a requirement for any food service establishment) and they are following all best-practice regulations about serving, sterilization, and hand-washing, in the attempt to not attract the ire of authorities on the basis of a technicality. Dish washing is perhaps the easiest way to help at the occupation camp, as people are always jumping in and out of the line.
The kitchen is also probably the biggest area of interaction for the camp as well, because while there are many people who don’t go to the GA (more about that later), everyone shows up for food. I’ve heard some ire about this, and some grumbled suggestions of closing the kitchen to people not volunteering, but I’ve also heard this loudly rebuked. Right now, there is plenty of food, and I personally see no reason to not give food away for free.
Contributions needed: Food. Raw materials, sauces, and spices, especially.
Work needed: dishwashers, servers and cooks with valid food-handlers cards.
Sanitation is not sexy. But it is very important, and only recognized when it is not getting done. This is why I’m listing it second. Adjacent to the kitchen is the recycling sorting area, where recyclables and compost are sorted, and trash is bagged to be hauled out. Sanitation is also responsible for camp clean-up and bathrooms (there are public restrooms at either end of the park, and also two porta-potties, contributed from I don’t know where). They also seem to fill the water tanks at the fountain, when needed.
Last night, the one woman in charge of sanitation was very overwhelmed. She had just finished cleaning the bathroom at 11 PM, and then someone bitched at her about the state of the porta-potties. I could have yelled at that person complaining. I told the woman doing sanitation how I thought she was doing a great job, especially for doing an unwanted task that no one was volunteering for. She asked me if I wanted to help pick up trash, which I did :) I actually swept and sorted two bags of garbage yesterday, which felt really good, not least of which because as I bent down to pick up cigarette butts and soggy newspaper around the park, I got more “thanks” from other occupiers than even washing dishes during dinner time. In fact, right now I feel guilty that I’m sitting in a wifi cafe writing this essay, rather than being down there picking up trash. That is the first thing I’m going to do when I get down there is afternoon.
Contributions needed: trash bags, and large buckets. ALSO: help hauling out garbage, but I believe there is a separate transportation committee organizing volunteers for this.
Work needed: cleaning, gathering, sorting, hauling. Wear a pair of rubber gloves, and you’ll be fine. There is plenty of hand sanitizer around for you to use afterward.
The coffeshop is called “Rumors and Miss-Information Cafe”. And of course there is one, because it is Portland. There is plenty of coffee, but the main commodity needed right now is hot water. They were relying on donations of hot water from nearby restaurants, but are trying to rig up a system to boil water off-site. They have plenty of propane, but they don’t want to run afoul of regulations against open flames in the park.
Contributions needed: hot water, if you’re nearby. Maybe cold-brewed coffee?
Work needed: I’m sure you could speak to someone about helping with the off-site boiling process.
They have the coolest sign, are working on the most impressive projects, and are probably the sexiest committee, even though I did not see a single female working with them, and that should be fixed. These are the makers of the occupation. They’re working on solar panels, bicycle power generation (one is working, more on the way), and other energy needs. The kitchen is working all on electricity, I believe, and they’ve run generators and battery backups for media and info tents.
They’re also working on tarping the whole camp, and in places, organizing the tent city with “Burning Man like” spoke roads, to ease emergency access. This is actually a bigger challenge than power, because they aren’t laying out roads ahead of time, but trying to consensually organize a city already laid out, without telling anyone what to do. Also, it’s been raining heavily, so drainage is a problem. It’s been a mostly catch-up game so far, making sure tarps don’t collect water, and sweeping up flooded sidewalks as they occur.
I wanted to volunteer with Engineering initially, but I think what they really need, besides materials, is people with very strong technical know-how, perhaps already assembled into a small team. Plans are in the works for a common build-area, and a bike repair workshop (naturally).
Contributions needed: check the website for current needs regarding power generation, but they need gas, pallets, tarps, and rope. They also have an oxy torch, but no gas.
Work needed: strong technical knowledge, or strong technical will to see projects through despite challenges.
Another sexy committee. They have a nice little hut/yurt, with a growing library, organized, as they will tell you, according to the Dewey Decimal System. (Sexy!) Check out is free, of course. They also organize the sign-ups for teach-ins and lectures.
One of the most impressive aspects of this committee is that they are archiving the occupation. All the minutes of the GAs, notes taken by committees, letters, statements, handouts, photos, and anything else that is donated is being scanned. The scans are being stored digitally, and also printed and sorted into folders, so anyone can come into the library and peruse them. They are not currently available online, but I’m hoping to personally talk to them about at least setting up a Dropbox or something, so this is not lost.
Contributions needed: books and magazines, non-fiction especially. Fiction is good, but they’d rather have a more usable research library, and not just a dumping ground for old paperbacks. ALSO: bookshelves, and watertight containers for storing papers and books, folders, and other office-supply type stuff.
Work needed: People to sort and organize, and if you can offer printing services.
Info is the first stop for people looking to contribute and volunteer. They are also, apparently, where most complains are delivered. I think there’s obviously a good duality there. If you have a problem, you should probably volunteer.
Volunteering seems to be a little confused. There are several lists you can put your name on, and no indication that these really followed up. However, this is a good place to see what committees are needing, because they report daily on what they need to Info. Then, you can go to that individual committee’s members, and see about contributing directly (most have contact info on file at Info). For example, there is a dishwashing list and schedule at Info, that has some scattered email addresses, and lots of blank spaces. But, if you simply go over to the dishwashing station they will put you in line, or tell you they are good right now, but check back in ten minutes. Volunteering is more about initiative, than signing up.
Info also runs the Post service, which are basically runners going around and spreading info to the various committees, and bringing it back. They also seem to have a good supply of tarps, rope, and tape, which they are distributing.
Contributions needed: tarps, rope, tape. Especially duct tape. And markers, both permanent and whiteboard. They also take cash contributions here. (Not “donations” though. A tax thing.)
Work needed: If you want to work with them, ask. Or, tell them what you can do or contribute, and they’ll point you in the right direction.
I couldn’t get around to every committee yesterday, and things are evolving so fast I don’t feel comfortable detailing the status of every committee. But here is a list of other committees that exist, and you can probably guess what sort of stuff they need. Or, check the website, OccupyPdx.org, for latest requests. Or even better, go down and ask!
First-aid, etc. Medical training would be a great thing to contribute, as well as supplies. I know they are working on getting mental health facilitation up and running.
A new committee, launched yesterday.
From what I can tell, it’s one coordinator organizing people who can drive vehicles for pickups and deliveries. THEY VERY MUCH NEED VEHICLES AND DRIVERS! See Info booth to learn how to help.
They update the website (such that they can) and also include the video collective. They don’t speak for the occupation, but release statements in solidarity with the occupation. I know they very much need Mobile Data hotspots and modems.
- Police Liaison
Just one person, who is empowered by the GA to communicate with the police, reporting back to the GA on what the police have to say, though not to negotiate, make statements, or reveal information without the explicit approval of the GA. I imagine she might want a break, now and then, though only she personally was approved by the GA.
People who have volunteered to be on the front lines to observe and passively-resist (though I’m not sure that’s the properly approved terminology) in case of physical conflict with the police. Also, people trained to generally assist with in-camp safety. This means making sure no one is intoxicated or incapacitated, or suffering a health issue. I don’t believe they have any mandate to do anything though, other than offer advice, and notify medical if needed.
- Sexual Assault Working Group
Available for advice or consult. I know they need folks, especially those with training.
- Short Term Tactics
A brainstorming and proposal-crafting committee. All well and good, but I personally am of the opinion that Sanitation needs more volunteers. :)
- Long Term Goals
My comments are the same as above.
* * * * *
With so many people working so hard to craft this occupation from nothing, with almost no plan, frustration is inevitable. Many people have strong, differing opinions, of course. And when we’ve all been standing on our feet in the rain for three hours, trying to decide together whether or not we’ve been following the GA process that we’ve agreed upon, in order to make a serious decision that could decide the future direction of the occupation and could result in everyone’s arrest… well, you can imagine it’s a challenge to keep it civil. And then you get back into the center of camp from an only barely-satisfying GA, and see the same half-drunk guy banging on a bucket with sticks is still going, just as off-beat and un-syncopated as he was four hours ago, and suddenly you can feel that pounding inside your brain…
But this is what society is. This is what democracy looks like. What I’ve learned in the four and a half years since I left academia is that the democratic system, as advertised, is a sham. There is no honor or glamour in working for a minimum-wage, because there is no boot-strap to pull on in the vast majority of cases. The economic system treats all of us, the hard-workers and the layabouts, precisely the same. We’re expendable. We’re certainly not worth anything. And we’re all dumped in the streets together. So I say, let’s not reach for boot straps, but let’s reach for the lamp posts. Let’s rewire them, put in outlets and USB charge ports, and convert them to solar.
For my part, I’m going to contribute my hard-working efforts towards raising us all up, to build a new society from the street. There are enough of us to do it. And it doesn’t have to be the walled garden, the gated community that the so-called 53% strive to build. Because that is built from steel and cinder block. The architecture of safety and security is the architecture of a prison. I look around myself, and I am in the streets. So the streets will be the model for my home and society. And the streets are crowded with people.
So let the problems rain down, both literally, in terms of the weather and mud, and figuratively. As I tweeted earlier this week, I’m not intimidated by much. This generation watches Al Jazeera. This revolution will be a revolution of solving problems. And if that is a problem for anyone, then they can either take it to the GA, or it can become a problem for them.
Posted: October 12th, 2011
, Occupation Notes
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The water fountain in Chapman Park. While some doubt the usefulness of the Portland Water Works’ constantly bubbling fountains, this one is now primary water source to a city of 1000 people.
The first priority near term goal of the Portland Occupation has been achieved. The police have said there will be no arrests or harassment as long as the occupation can share the space with the marathon to everyone’s satisfaction. As of 11 AM last night, it appeared there was consensus to do so, and the police have been true to their word, with no arrests at the encampment, although there was one incident off-site in which two people were arrested for graffiti. The first priority of any occupation–the defense of the space–has been achieved.
Of course, this presents the next short-to-medium term problem: what’s next? This is an occupation without firm demands, but still, a community must have goals. Dealing with imminent issues of a threat towards it’s existence is a good rally point for a community, but after that’s been secured, what will continue to define the space and people?
The occupation swelled on friday night, and there is hardly room for more tents. The occupation needs room to grow, and proposals for off-shoot locations or new locations were being suggested in the GA. While long-term goals might not yet be on the table, this is an occupation that is going somewhere, or evolving into something. It would behoove us all to look ahead. Many detractors use the lack of forward plans as a criticism. I don’t think a roadmap to anything is necessary; but all the same, we should be sure our driving skills are up to the challenge.
In a tweet earlier today, Alexis Madrigal suggested (apologies for no link, but I’m blogging by phone again) that a leaderless, consensus movement would not look strange to anyone familiar with open-source tech. I think there is such a relationship. There is something of “Maker-dom” here, and perhaps that is the key.
It’s already there, of course, in the craftspersonship that anyone clever can display on a camping trip when the wind starts to blow the tarp away, or when your trying to cook dinner even though you forgot to buy several items. Both those examples are in fact occurring at the occupation. And for those who are taking part in the consensus groups, there is certainly a volunteer spirit in play.
But I think we need to dig deeper. The occupation needs projects. Something needs to be built. The crazy suggestion, “let’s build a giant airship!” keeps coming back to me. I think everyone could agree that a protest airship would be awesome, just as everyone would agree that it would be near impossible. Where would we get helium? We would would face opposition not just from the police, but from the FAA. There would be a serious risk of people getting hurt. And what if the Oregon Tea Party deploys anti-aircraft gun batteries?
I don’t like the idea because it is “just so crazy”, and because I think the occupation should “aim for the moon and hit the stars.”. I like it because people built airships a hundred years ago, and they did it without computers. People build their own drones now, and control them with their cell phones. People build amazing things, just for fun. We can and do amazing things all day long. The question is, how do these amazing things become not just amazing, but part of the occupation?
I hope that the occupation transforms into a Maker Fair, but one without a permit or venue, that never ends. I hope we build amazing shit. Protester in Iceland are rewriting their constitution. Clearly we can do something as big, or bigger. What if your hobby was not only fun, but built a city? This is what we have the opportunity to do now Occupy Portland has the initiative now, of all the occupations in this country. What are we going to do with it?
If you have any propellers, please email me.
Posted: October 8th, 2011
, Occupation Notes
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Update: as of about 10:20 PM when I left, consensus had been reached to continue to occupy and hold at least one block of the park, despite the 9AM deadline to vacate. We’ll see what happens tomorrow morning.
I’m writing this on my phone from the park, where fifty yards away a consensus group is in process to decide whether or not the occupation will move tomorrow morning to let the marathon use the park. I think this represents the non-permanent, transitory nature of this whole process pretty well.
Until there is a decision or other hard information about what might happen tomorrow morning at the police deadline of 9 AM, let me share some of my other thoughts from the day.
Today was the largest protest event I’ve seen in Portland. Also the most diverse age range. A lot of “middle age” folks, not the typical 20-somethings and older folks you see at protests here. A lot of people in their thirties and forties. Now, at night, the more typical younger folks remain, but seeing this large range of ages really made me think something might be different about this protest.
However, some things are the same. The “organizers”, even though there aren’t supposed to be organizers, are college-aged activist sorts, the kind of people who are ready to speak up. Certain people will naturally “take the mic”, and these sorts are doing so. There is some effort to allow “anyone” to speak, but mostly it is the usual suspects.
And I think these usual suspects could use a major dose of “drink some water” type Burning Man lessening of intensity. No one is being tear gassed yet, so we can all take a breath and maybe say please and thank you.
The march was a major show of solidarity, but how this will evolve into an occupation remains to be seen. Although this is billed as a protest for everyone, it is and it isn’t. Many people are here, but they are mostly pursuing the same goals they would otherwise being pursuing, across a spectrum of issues and stances, with a wide range of tactics and strategies. I don’t think this occupation needs unity per se, but it needs a program. Whether goal oriented, wild and erratic, situationist, or all of these, programmatic tasks need to be proposed. We need to build something. Play a game. Otherwise, this is just the same drifting we were doing last month in different places, now just in the same place. We need to do something with the space that we’ve defined and occupied. We need to figure out what makes this public space public. Some sort of human architecture should be designed here. The consensus process shows some process–I’m pretty impressed and think it has potential. I hope that after we conquer the short term goal of tomorrow, we can get some more short and medium term goals going.
Let’s not just storm the castle. Let’s build one. That’s inside out, has baba yaga legs, and flies.
oh, and my experiment kind of worked. I met some people, one of whom I’d actually had prior Internet contact with. His name is Ben (hi Ben, if you’re reading this!) and he wore an excellent mask. Hopefully when I get my mobile Internet kinks worked out (major signal, battery, and data plan SNAFUs today) I’ll find some other virtual friends in physical space.
More as it comes.
Posted: October 6th, 2011
, Occupation Notes
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Here’s my plan for the Occupy Portland protest, beginning tomorrow.
I have very little in the way of an affinity group, mostly because I don’t know many people in my local area that are interested in going to the protest. The point of an affinity group, of course, is to provide small groups of people who know and trust each other before hand with a “local” group, that can then decide to or not to take part in bigger actions at a protest. This is sort of an accepted format for protests (at least those I am familiar with), but it is limited by the obvious caveat: you must have this affinity group to take part in this strategy.
Part of the spirit of the “Occupies” protests, at least from what I’ve read of it in other cities, is that many people who are not usual to the protesting “scene” are coming in to see what it is all about, and getting drawn into the general assembly process, the consensus groups, and all the rest. (For a nice narrative of this sort of experience, I suggest this.)
I love that. For one thing, it breaks with the usual, super-serious protest-clique experience, which while not a uniform negative in organizing culture, is enough of a real thing that if you’ve been to a protest before you know what I mean. Second, it is more of a network-culture element, not unlike some of the network-culture online, which you and I both are probably familiar with.
Twitter is, in a sense, an occupation of virtual space. An occupation of virtual space is not the same thing as an occupation of physical space, but it is similar in that the occupation is only constituted by those who are there, in an always-on presence that defines the space. Twitter is “on” and existant 24 hours a day, but only in that I have a network that is checking in, taking part, and constituting the space 24 hours a day. We, that is, my loosely-affiliated follower/followee lists, are the Twitter occupation. Whatever the point of the Twitter-occupation is, that is how it exists. We are the affinity group that makes the virtual a reality, and while it may not be identical to the trust and solidarity of a physical-space affinity group, it does have a certain sort of solidarity to it, the full implications and extents of which we are still discovering.
I’m wondering to what degree a loosely-affiliated network might affect a similar occupation in physical space. And thus, I propose this plan for tomorrow:
I invite anyone reading this who is interested, who knows me from Twitter or elsewhere, to find me and introduce themselves tomorrow at Occupy Portland. I don’t have a large network, but my network is not nothing, so I hope that at least a few people can get to know each other in person tomorrow, in the context of the protest.
What happens next is up to us. I’ll be Tweeting from the protest, as well as posting pictures and other distributed-media sorts of things. If you and I meet up, chances are you will be as well. Perhaps we might work together on it. This could look like a specific hashtag, a joint Twitter list, a photo set, a live blog, or a Storify. Heck, with the online tools at our disposal, we are technically able to start a website chock full of live video and audio, tomorrow, from the occupation, using only our cell phones. Not that we need to, or should. But it could be done. With these sorts of tools, we should be able to do something interesting, and network-culture oriented, together. This will be the second experiment I’ve conducted to see how my own personal network connections might manifest in physical existence (this was the first, that went rather well). Maybe nothing will happen, or maybe something interesting will take shape.
But the most important thing, and the reason we are all attending Occupy Portland (amid all the OTHER reasons) is to meet each other, and to network physically to occupy a space. I’m hoping to make that a reality, if nothing else. So, hey! Let’s meet face to face, tomorrow, at Occupy Portland!
How to find me: I’ll be wearing a green hoodie, and I have dreadlocks. Because this is Portland, and there is a chance I won’t be the only person with this description, I’ll also have a sticker on my chest identifying me as “@interdome“, like it’s some sort of professional event or reunion. Because it kind of is, isn’t it? For those of us, spread out across the wires in our diverse and asynchronous networks, gently magnetized into action by the flows that stimulate our drives to do something. This is our event. Lastly, if all else fails, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me on Twitter.
If you’re shy, I suggest wearing a tag with your own Twitter handle. Then I can introduce myself to you, and everyone who uses Twitter, and therefore is in our wider, open-ended network, can introduce themselves to everyone else.
See you tomorrow!
ps. If nothing else, I’ll be providing traffic on Twitter and here at POSZU about whatever happens tomorrow. So if you are in a different physical location, feel free to check this general virtual space for updates about how the experiment went.
Posted: October 5th, 2011
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