#OccupyWallStreet and the Evolution of the Web
With the Occupy Wall Street movement (also known as #OWS) finally making headlines around the world and capturing people’s imaginations, the timing of Contact Summit 2011, tagline: the evolution will be social, taking place in New York City on Thursday, October 20, could not be any more timely.
The emergence of the #Occupy so-called protests that started in New York City last month and are now spreading fast across North America (with #OccupyToronto taking place today, October 15 on King St. and Bay St. downtown) has been described by noted media theorist Douglas Rushkoff as the first net-era movement in North America, taking its cue from the collaborative, open source, and sustainable models many people around the world are working to build right now.
Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO (with over a $1 trillion under management) argues that #OWS is more than just a nascent movement that will grow in the weeks and months ahead. Along with the non-violent grassroots protests that we have seen emerge from the Arab Spring earlier this year, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, El-Erian argues that #OWS is part of a worldwide drive for greater social justice that has the potential to unify people from diverse cultural backgrounds, political affiliations, religions, and social classes. He also dismisses skeptics and critics of the #OWS movement as repeating the mistake that many made in Egypt, Israel and Tunisia—that of falling hostage to an outmoded way of thinking about seemingly-leaderless grassroots movements.
Rushkoff also makes a similar argument wherein he argues that the reason why some mainstream news journalists and many of the audiences they serve see the #OWS protests as incoherent, is precisely because the press and the public are themselves. He notes that it is difficult to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics in which we are still steeped. Rushkoff goes on to say that unlike a political campaign designed to get a person in office and then close up shop (as in Obama ’08), #OWS is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. Rather, it is the product of the decentralized networked-era culture that makes up our reality today, where it is less about victory than sustainability; it is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus; it is not like a book, it is like the Internet.
Returning to the Contact Summit, convened and hosted by Douglas Rushkoff himself, and with the likes of Dennis Crowley (founder of Foursquare), Eli Pariser (founder of MoveOn.org) and Clay Shirky attending, along with a number of other very talented people, the conference should prove to be interesting especially given the very participatory and results-oriented nature of the event. The Collaboratory—a “collaboratory” of attendee-conceived and moderated conversations taking place throughout the day, along with The Bazaar—a two-hour midday festival of demos, have been designed to produce results with the question, What concrete steps can we take to realize a true potential of the networked era?, kept in mind.
From the Contact Summit website:
“Contact is a working festival of innovation where the net’s leading minds and entrepreneurs can connect with the people who are building the social technologies of tomorrow. The net of the future will not be fueled by ads, but by people solving real problems through distributed, peer-to-peer solutions. This is dormant promise of the Internet, finally coming to fruition.”
Im looking forward to attending and participating at Contact in New York City next week and will certainly be keeping close tabs on the #OWS movement, especially now that I am back in Canada for the next little while and all of this hits way too close to home.
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