cyborgology + #ows
There’s a lot of good writing about Occupy Wall Street on the web. If you don’t know where to begin, see Max’s post for an introductory guide, and be sure to also check out n+1’s new free digital gazette and the LA Review of Books’ online series.
I’m especially interested in all the conversations regarding the role of interactive/social media in Occupy Wall Street and other grassroots movements. As Douglass Rushkoff astutely observed on CNN last month, this movement isn’t structured like a book; it’s structured like the internet. Surely this is because a huge chunk of it happens on the internet. That is, the internet doesn’t just serve to organize and reflect upon what happens in the street; online and social networking activity constitutes its own vibrant, visible and highly accessible branch of the movement.
There’s a great conversation about this issue taking place over at Cyborgology, a culture blog that spotlights the impact of media and technology on our rapidly evolving social world.
Cyborgology’s bloggers were writing about digital activism before either OWS or Arab Spring, but #Occupy now provides a great case study for their ongoing discussion of digital dualism, or the tendency to strictly differentiate between the real world and the online world. The bloggers present a united front on the issue: this division is way too reductive to account for the complex and very real impact of the digital on our lives.
By way of example, last week blogger PJ Rey responded to Noam Chomsky’s trivialization of social media with this:
“Chomsky is seemingly ignorant to the use of Twitter and other networks in shaping the Arab Spring and the #Occupy movement; or the fact that young people are voraciously sharing and consuming important news stories through these same networks; or that Blacks and Hispanics were early adopters of smartphones; or that gay men have been pioneers in geo-locative communication. In many cases, historically-disadvantaged groups have used social media technology to find opportunities previously foreclosed to them. For these folks, social media is hardly trivial.”
Similarly, blogger Jenny Davis wrote recently that people whose activism never leaves the digital realm shouldn’t be so readily dismissed as “slacktivists.” She writes, “Status updates and tweets about Occupy Wall Street… not only spread information about the protests, but also locate the protests in the digitally networked space(s) of everyday life, designating them as part of a relevant conversation.”
For me this type of analysis represents a much-needed alternative to traditional activist thought, which tends to identify the physical body (or mass of physical bodies) as the primary agent of social change. “Digital activism is not only a means to the end of embodied social action,” writes blogger Jeffrey Goldfarb, agreeing with Davis above. “It also is an end in itself, a new type of politics that can make the previously hidden visible.”
Other worthwhile #Occupy-related posts on Cyborgology include:
-#OWS and the Formation of Rhizomatic Associations by David Banks
-’Mic Check!’ #Occupy, Technology, and the Amplified Voice by Sarah Wanenchak
-Social Media and Our Atmosphere of Augmented Dissent by Nathan Jurgenson
Occupy Wall Street aside, Cyborgology is an internet gem– intelligent, topical, provocative, wide-ranging but coherent. If you’re interested in digital activism, interactive media, the sociology of the web, the technology of late capitalism, augmented reality, or thinking critically about the internet, I advise you to check it out.