A second and related principle that runs throughout their work is that by building the right online tools, they can make a new kind of social movement possible, one that manages to defy the tensions between leaderless and organized, local and national, and inclusive and cohesive. They can embed their idealism directly into their code.
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The early web efforts of the Occupy movements took shape in August, in advance of the first day of the occupation. Drew Hornbein, a web developer living in Brooklyn, began building what today the web team of OWS refers to as Version 1.0. That early site eventually became nycga.net, the main online hub of the New York encampment. The team behind it (a group whose name and structure is a bit in flux) is the coding arm of the Wall Street occupation's General Assembly (GA), its governing body.
The site is not your typical political campaign website; it is a tool for OWS's internal activities, mostly organized around the nearly 90 working groups that have formed around topics such as media, sanitation, or alternative banking, all of which are organized loosely under the umbrella of the GA. Underlying the site's operations is a social element that allows anyone to create an account and participate in the work. The centerpiece of the mainpage is a stream of constant updates, informing visitors, for example, that meditation is still on for today at 3:30, or reporting on police activity in the area. There are thousands of posted events and the minutes of group meetings and general assemblies, including, for example, this agenda from the first of November:
- Proposal from structure & organization
- Problems with last night's GA
- Internal community issues inside plaza Viz. media & substantive issues
- Chip: solution to our electrical problems that requires nothing but money & involves no fire-dept. issues
- I want to propose a coalition around emergency preparedness for raid
Here's what you won't find at nycga.net, at least not without some serious digging: fact sheets or infographics about inequality, nicely organized press releases, or an official blog. There is little capacity for the sort of mass e-mail blasts that Move On uses. As Charles Lenchner, who has been involved in the Internet Working Group, explained, "the things that are the bread and butter" of technology consulting for political organizations are just not there.
In short, nycga.net is more like an organization's intranet (the site where an organization stores its archives, organizes its contact info, posts company-wide alerts, and is not public) than it is like an organization's outward-facing website. Except, unlike a typical intranet, nycga.net is public, because openness is a core principle of Occupy's online activities.
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All of this tells us a bit about Occupy Wall Street. First, the focus of the web developers has been to facilitate the internal workings of the movement, not to project talking points or messaging. In part, this has probably encouraged, or at least done nothing to stop, the criticism of the Occupy movement as being without clear and concrete demands.