Making our Virtual Affinities Physical

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 [email protected], 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
Categories: Emissions
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