It seems that WITW has been given over (for the time being) to Occupy Wall Street business. There are a few other obsessions I’m managing to fit in between work obligations, but none of them have such interesting audio/video. Moreover, I’ve got a little loveable bundle of readers outside New York that appreciate the first hand observations I can provide. Finally, this thing went global yesterday with hundreds of thousands of people marching in support of the cause. “On 6 continents,” said Al Jazeera this morning, which only made me feel a little sad for poor Antarctica.
I attended the “party” at Times Square yesterday and sort of by accident had a front row seat to the violence and arrests that ensued. I won’t be able to get all of the pictures up until tomorrow, so I’ll save a post on those events for later in the week. I’m also hoping the Spanish press photographer who was standing next to me will send a link to his pics which are likely to be hugely more legible and I’d prefer you to see those.
So for today, I’ve got a few other issues. Many of you have asked me to find the answers to your burning (mostly sociological) questions. I’ve got an answer to one of those:
There is still a wipe board in the park, but I’ve only participated in non-park activities of late, so I haven’t got a shot. What I can offer instead (and you’re going to LOVE this, org theory types) is the model for General Assemblies that was written by the Spanish 15 May group, which is now being circulated as a working draft for all potential global sites. It includes a definition of “collective thinking”; a list of the roles during a GA; an explanation of how dispute, discussion and decision-making operate; a set of non-verbal gestures for use (n.b. that the New York group prefers the set described in images in my earlier post; a model “dynamic” agenda; and a definition of consensus.
Relatedly, I picked up a copy of the second issue of the Occupied Wall St. Journal yesterday, and they reprinted only two sections from the first edition: “what can I do to get involved?” and an illustrated time line that links up events in the Arab Spring, the May Spanish protests, and Occupy Wall Street. Yes, they see themselves aligned with these other movements. No, the Tea Party isn’t on the list, and I think that question was solved last week by “intrepid” reporters, anyway.
Finally, one of my brillz students sent me a note to me informing me that the general approach taken in this article by the architecture critic of the Times is very reminiscent of Simmel’s argument about the relationship between space and mental constructs or personality (I had them read “The Metropolis and Mental Life” and the essay on fashion–is it called, “On Fashion”?). The article ends (cribbing from someone quoted in the article): “on the ground is where the protesters are building an architecture of consciousness.”
Speaking of which: I’m not really the type well suited to collective thinking and so I’m getting particularly sick of some of the talking heads on this OWS thing.* I love that so many people are trying to sort out what’s involved, and who’s involved, and what will happen next…but I think you’ll understand these events in a richer way if you participate. And by “participate,” I mean that you could attend a general assembly. Since there are something like 1,000 cities and towns across the globe participating in the movement, most of you should be able to find one nearby. And by “participate,” I don’t mean that you need to agree with any or all of the platforms/positions of the other people who attend. The whole point is to develop a model where a diversity of opinions can be productively incorporated into how the community functions. Here’s the relevant text from that “quick guide” I linked to, above:
The Assembly is based on free association – if you are not in agreement with what has been decided, you are not obliged to carry it out. Every person is free to do what they wish – the Assembly tries to produce collective intelligence, and shared lines of thought and action. It encourages dialogue and getting to know one another.
The time for armchair philosophizing about the movement is over. These meetings will welcome you. Your voice is wanted.
Update: OH, SERENDIPITY! I finished the post and then wiggled over to Twitter to catch up. Saw @alondra (Alondra Nelson) linking to a Chronicle piece on the “intellectual roots of the” protests. And I’m just going to crib her response, ’cause you know she’s right: Two things wrong with the piece: 1. the use of the African anthropological “other” as the model for “the rest of us” and 2. the near-exclusion of female academic voices in the piece, despite the fact that horizontal SMS organization was used to dramatic effect in the women’s movement.
*There’s one person in particular I’m irritated by, but s/he doesn’t read this blog, so there’s no need or purpose in calling him/her out. And my point is actually to extend the invitation and point out that you will retain your free will, even after you visit with the hippies.