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This is What Democracy Looks Like

// Posted by on 02/23/2014 (8:03 PM)

After reading Jeff Sharlet’s article, Inside Occupy Wall Street, it is obvious how much power and influence technology has in our society.  The product of a simple yet powerful tweet, the Occupy Wall Street demonstration proved itself to be… Read more

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After reading Jeff Sharlet’s article, Inside Occupy Wall Street, it is obvious how much power and influence technology has in our society.  The product of a simple yet powerful tweet, the Occupy Wall Street demonstration proved itself to be much more than a mere protest as it inspired a media awareness that lead to Occupy movements worldwide.  After observing the movements growth over the period of a few months, Sharlet, someone whose spent years immersed in the right wing, refers to the OWS movement as “an incredible display of political imagination”.  Indeed, the movement was one-of-a-kind as it united diverse groups of people through technology, promoting a kind of shared voice while simultaneously creating a community that was truly unique.

It is not uncommon for one to as what was that something protesters were fighting for?  As Sharlet mentions, Adbusters had proposed a “‘worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics,’ but their big ideas went no further than pressuring Obama to appoint a presidential commission on the role of money in politics”.  Although they had initiated the beginnings of the protest, they were unaware that they had begun a movement that reached unimaginable heights.  What amazed me was the progression in size of the movement and protesters that loyally followed.  It had begun with around 2,000 individuals but quickly grew, attracting people from all over.  With the creation of a public clinic, library, and kitchen, the Occupy Wall Street movement had created a new whole.  It is almost as if they created a world within a world.  People committed to the cause considered this home and seemed to have this sense of shared generosity and spirit.  People were, undoubtedly, attracted to OWS for different reasons.  As protester Jesse Legraca admitted, he was first drawn to the park after seeing a topless girl.  And the addition of free food did not hurt either.  Fellow protester David Graeber, in contrast, was a radical anthropologist and anarchist who was committed to the cause and even created the theme to the overall movement.

This idea of unification is what drove Occupy Wall Street and allowed it to function for as long as it did.  As previously mentioned, Graeber created a theme for the movement, “we are the 99%”.  This movement was particularly different than past ones as there were no designated leaders or speakers.  People, rather, functioned as a large group and were excited by the idea that they were taking true advantage of democracy.  Thus, this feeling of genuine democracy is a significant aspect of the OWS movement.  As Shalret states, many Americans view “democracy as little more than an unhappy choice between two sides of the same corporate coin”.  With minimal agency, the chance to be part of a real decision—to make a change—is an exciting prospect. With no defined reasons or statements telling people why they needed to come to the OWS demonstration, it created this sense of liberation and open communication.  People came to the cause to decide as a whole what their aim was and what decisions to were to be made.  OWS protesters had one voice, literally, as they adopted a new form of amplification—the human microphone.  This only emphasized the idea that every individual could be heard and served only to further unify the community.

For a leaderless movement, Occupy Wall Street was an extremely unique demonstration of the power of technology in our society.  The movement in itself was created and further perpetuated through technology and media.  It is obvious that a movement like this could not have existed even twenty years ago and just highlights how quickly technology has progressed throughout the past decade.  The question is, what will come next?  How will protests or social/political movements function in a decade? How will technology continue to shape our world and will it be for the better?


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