Why Occupy worked when other similar protests didn’t?

I just read a intriguing article that looked at why Occupy succeed when other bottom-up self-organizing, crowd-sourced, emergent openly collaborative protests this year didn’t take off.

Its a fascinating topic because here at Open Collaboration the goal is to figure out and distill the basic ingredients that go into making an openly collaborative project work.

There have been other self-organizing protests like Reclaim the American Dream, The Other %98, an american version of Britain Uncut that didn’t take off this year. Why?

Andrew Boyd who was one of the organizers of the Other %98 had these reasons about why Occupy worked :

“1. There’s a little bit of randomness to what works. You have to just keep throwing things against the wall until something sticks. That said, there were clearly nerves to strike.

2. The tactic of occupation: The permanence of it. We’re not going to leave, we’re going to stick it out. The personal commitment and determination of people on the ground to see that through. That creates a human story and drama and a demonstration of personal commitment that matters, regardless of whether people think they’re “dirty hippies.” And it creates a dramatic narrative, too. Will the cops kick them out? Will they outlast the weather?

3. The lack of demands: Functionally it’s genius, even if it wasn’t strategically intentional. This makes OWS an open space a that everyone can bring their resentments, anger, longings, and dreams, to. It also puts OWS in the “right vs wrong box,” instead of in the “political calculation” box. It doesn’t feel calculated.”

What is intriguing here is that the physical space adds a very important dimension to the protest. A commons space that is easy to get to where we can be and intermingle and have conversations and allows for energy to brew.

I think its important for a open collaborative project to be about something, not just against something. In the case of a protest it is against something, so it depends on something other than itself to exist. If a protest also becomes a festival, a place for people to hang out and converse, a place where people can model a new socio-economic political way of living, then it has a lot more legs. A self-creating process has reason to keep creating itself. A fighting process is in part created by the opposition so it doesnt develop some of the DNA for self-healing, self-maintanence.

In autopoiesis theory terms, a protest is more allopoietic (it depends on the Other to exist), whilst a self-organizing festival, commons space is more autopoietic (it creates itself).


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