Thursday, November 3, 2011

What the "Occupy Wall Street" Town Hall is All About

NOTE: This event is being streamed, starting at 6pm EST on Nov. 3

How did a web medium that was designed to help lonely people find dates or teenagers improve their social lives become what may be the most powerful medium of organized public resistance we have ever experienced?

To paraphrase Hemingway our a social writer in his own right – it happened to ways: gradually and then suddenly.

It probably incubated in Iran where Twitter feeds gave the world a blow-by-blow report of an oppress people trying to shake off a vicious regime.

Then it swept the Arab world with the speed and force of a desert storm. Out of nowhere – this time organized and chronicled though Facebook – it took down one dictatorship after another. This is a revolution that no amount of diplomacy, editorializing, letter writing or armed resistance has been unable to do in decades.

Then Europe – especially Spain – experienced the organization of los indignantes – angry young people who organized tent cities in dozens of cities in Spain.

We watched and thought – that’s over there. Never happen here…..

In Spain, the organizers wrote a manifesto that seemed to make perfect sense to anyone with a smartphone, a Facebook page, a twitter and blog account and no job prospects, that they could join a cause – a flash mob that grew virally and actually had a purpose.

And then it came here.

In our rational, issue driven world the idea of Occupying Wall Street seem quaintly absurd. Laughable. It looked like it was going nowhere. As Ben Stein famously said, how can banging a drum change Wall Street? When millions of people do it together, they can. Anyone remember the story of Jericho?

It only took one police lieutenant to get videoed pepper spraying 4 helpless women. The Video went viral on Youtube and within days, 953 Occupy sites had sprung up in 84 countries.

If you run a control and command, authoritarian system – then this has to be your worst nightmare. The people can bite back.

So what does this mean to business, government and the administration of society?

Can you still tell people what do to do? When everyone has a cell pone videocam and a YouTube account you no longer own the narrative – that has he legal consequences, as we will see.

When citizens can reach millions directly with their stories, the news media is no longer the information gatekeeper.

What about business, does the Fed and Wall Street still control the value of currency when we know that troubled cities in Greece have created their own barter systems using open source software.

What about crowdfunding – so far the SEC opposes it and leave financing to the good people on Wall Street. If enough people band their drums, Congress will have to pass laws enabling it.

Should the government own policing? Or will whistleblower laws and public surveillance change that. In South Korea citizens make a living by using their video cams to act as bounty hunters against crime and corruption everywhere. Their whistleblower laws already make that possible – the social technology makes that a certainly.

What about the political process? We live in a binary system – its either Republicans or Democrats. Labor vs. management but the world is no longer binary. We no longer have simple majorities – demographically the US is now a country of pluralities. Most jobs come from small, independent businesses not from mega-corporations and the Spanish manifesto makes it clear that unions are not welcome.

Crowd politics – well organized - may in fact be the future of our politics and the only way we can truly accommodate diversity. Maybe what looks unfocused to us is really the fuzzy, fractal logic of the new politics. We have already seen a microfinanced president.

Why not a politician who wins because he amasses more Facebook likes than anyone else or parties that are formed and reformed around issues that people care about and not about party lines.

Can bureaucracy exist when the Internet has shown it can eliminate inefficiency and the middlemen? Why is medicine run by insurance aggregators and medical unions or even education, which has only resulted in higher costs no matte how good or bad the marketplace.

What we will learn tonight is that we are witnessing the birth of a parallel system of government, decisionmaking and administration. All empowered by the Internet, mobile and social media. It looks messy and ridiculous to outsiders – as do all births – but it is the future and societies will never work quite the same way again.

Finally the Digital Media Industry has been put on the front page and it is already producing new products, ideas and opportunities.

So let’s discover what and how….

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