Whose data? Our data!

Okay, doesn’t really work as a chant. Still, Occupy Research is a promising new wiki platform for doing sociological research on the Occupy movement, described as “an open, distributed research project that anyone can participate in.” I highly recommend that you click here and take their 10-minute (or less) survey. The more data we have, the better able we’ll be able to understand what we can do to make Occupy a more effective movement. The survey is also for people who haven’t been involved.

I say “we”, not as a formal participant in the research project, but as a participant in and student of the movement. Having been to many Occupys, I think I have a good sense of this milieu and what makes it tick. But, I also understand the limits of anecdotal evidence and know that Occupy iis more diverse and complex than any one person can effectively grok. And I like data and the often fascinating and unpredictable patterns that it can show.

From their Why page:

Why do we need to Occupy Research? There are many possible answers to this question.

In a broad sense: we need to Occupy Research because knowledge is power – or at least, knowledge can be used to build and maintain, as well as to upset, power. It’s important for the 99% to do our own research, because otherwise research becomes something that is driven by the questions of the 1%, uses the methods of the 1%, and is something that is done TO the 99%, with or without our consent.

I know that some people will be reticent to give data to anyone, even those on “our side,” for fear that it will be used by the police to repress us, the media to misrepresent us, the politicians to co-opt us and by corporations to sell us crap.

I promise: you are right. All of these things will happen.

Or, I should say, all of these things will happen anyway. Data is already being collected by everyone from sociological researchers to marketers to spy agencies, none of which we have access to and most of which is probably not all that useful to us for organizing purposes.

As the saying goes, “tracers work both ways.” The same can be said of data, Twitter or livestreaming protest video. It is likely at some point that one of our videos will expose a protester committing a crime and lead to a conviction, just as data gathered by anyone might be used against us by those who are invested in the status quo. (In general; the survey is anonymous.) In the meantime, the negative footage of police brutality and the empowering footage of thousands marching on the port and camping in the square have inspired millions and good data about who this movement is and what moves people will help our organizing efforts.

The risk/benefit ratio here of using transparent social media is massively in our favor. I think the same goes for our own, accessible, transparent data collection and I hope this project gets the widespread support and cooperation it needs to succeed.

A little more about the project, from the site’s Who page:

Occupy Research is an open, distributed research project that anyone can participate in. Here, anyone who wants to is free to describe who you are, your research interests, methods, and skills, and what you are interested in doing w/Occupy Research. Also put contact info if you’d like; be aware that this page is publicly available.

Below is a question from the survey, one that I thought was inadequate without a follow-up question.

What TOP THREE concerns motivated you TO PARTICIPATE in the occupy movement? Please use single words if possible, and list them in order of importance.

My problem here is that is only asks “concerns,” which I take to mean political or economic problems with society that you want to see changed.

The question I’d like to ask in addition is:

What about Occupy INSPIRED you to participate in it?

That is important, because that will tell us what will keep inspiring more people to participate. I run into many people, excited about Occupy, for whom this is their first-ever experience protesting. And then there are jaded activists like me, who have found this to be worth coming out of hiding for.

My answers to my hypothetical question:
1) Broadbased (i.e. a mass uprising, not just a single-issue-driven cause that will never leave the activist ghetto).
2) Creative (that is always a good indicator that something has staying power).
3) Networked (Occupy is very much an expression of both the present and future that way).

What are your reasons?

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