Occupy and “Augmented Revolution”

Back in November, Salon.com had a very interesting piece titled:
Welcome to the “augmented revolution”

I just saw it this evening when one of my Tweeps RT’d a link. (Okay, let me translate: One of the people whose posts I follow on Twitter re-posted someone else’s post with a link to the Salon article.)

The author also has an interesting blog with some clearly cutting-edge thinking on the subject of our relationship with the digital world. (Ugh, another must-follow blog!) The site link is to a particularly interesting post about the fallacy of what he calls the “digital dualist” view—the idea that our “virtual” lives and “real” lives are separate—promoting instead his view of life as an augmented reality, summed up somewhat in this excerpt:

I am proposing an alternative view that states that our reality is both technological and organic, both digital and physical, all at once. We are not crossing in and out of separate digital and physical realities, ala The Matrix, but instead live in one reality, one that is augmented by atoms and bits. And our selves are not separated across these two spheres as some dualistic “first” and “second” self, but is instead an augmented self.

I recommend reading both his blog and the Salon article. Below are a few choice snippets from the Salon article that will be of special interest to Occupiers.

social media should be understood as the effective merging of the digital and physical, the on- and offline, atoms and bits. And the consequences of this are erupting around us.

The lesson that is playing out over and over is that utilizing both physicality and digitality and the important intersection of the two can effectively mobilize massive numbers of people. The tactic of augmented revolution is becoming increasingly refined.

As a protester simultaneously marching in physical space and documenting what you do online, you can watch the stream of activity by following hashtags on Twitter and see your tweet retweeted by someone else on the other end of the globe. You can post your photos to Facebook and watch the comments come in. Augmented by the Internet, what you are doing seems to matter more. This is the not-so-secret weapon of augmented revolution.

This last excerpt explains what I’ve been doing with my involvement in Occupy. My activist history has usually put me out on the front lines. More recently, I’ve been involved as a street medic, providing first aid to protesters (or anyone) at demonstrations.

On October 25th, 2011, the night after the first Occupy Oakland eviction and later, on November 2nd, the night after the general strike, both times when the cops shot tear gas at peaceful protesters, I was there nominally in my street medic role. What I ended up doing in fact was reporting: shooting video and stills and writing and uploading it all to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. All this while watching others’ tweets and retweets on my phone and engaging an audience located as close as the next block and as far as other states and countries.

I’m finding this to be the most exciting way to be involved in Occupy. I want to understand through first-hand experience how this new reality works in the “real” world—the world made up of both the bricks of the Plaza and the digital world that brought us all there. Sending out tweets and livestreaming video from the front lines get me that augmented revolutionary experience and it changes everything.

I’ve been saying that there is something different about Occupy, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. I think this author nails what I was looking for better than I ever could. His concept of augmented revolution is the “new” quality that makes Occupy and the Arab Spring (and the other similar uprising that preceded it in the last couple years) different from what most of us think of as activism or insurrection.

It is mandatory that activists embrace and understand and push this new paradigm forward and learn to work within it. We need to leave the 20th Century modes of action (or those of the 19th Century in some cases) behind as rapidly as possible. Well, we do if we want to be effective.


2 thoughts on “Occupy and “Augmented Revolution”

  1. Wow, thanks! Love your pieces linked above. Gotta make time to read more of them. I’ll probably be quoting your term “augmented revolution” frequently.

    I often wonder about the role of theorists in the activist milieu. Not sure how much of it actually trickles down to affect what happens on the street. It’s one thing to observe and comment on what is happening; it’s another to have it actually effect change. Not so sure how to do that right now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *