Occupy Wall Street

We will look at Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder’s pieces on Occupy that came out in Sep 17, 2012. As usual, please post your responses here, 24 hours in advance of class. Thanks.

13 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street

  1. Political scientist Stephania Milan characterized the Occupy Protests as “cloud protesting,” where “a set of ‘soft resources’ coexist: identities, narratives, and know-how, which facilitate mobilization.” This parallel to the computing world is clear, placing an emphasis on networking rather than top-down hierarchical models of disseminating information. The influence of the occupy movement far exceeds the physical duration of the actual occupation of Zuccotti Park. The ease of digital communication allows for individuals to connect at the click of a mouse, without any added investment. The poignancy of The 99% Project was that it allowed for people of all different backgrounds to unite through very specific imagery. However, this type of online association is a double-edged sword, as it masks the many motivations and goals that drive these individuals. Massey and Snider comment that these communities lack the weight “to mobilize people for the tenacious action it often takes to achieve deep structural changes.” The differences in ideas become much more apparent when these movements move to physical action. The occupation of the camp was split from the very beginning, between those who saw it as a protest and those who saw a model for a new, anarchist society. Attempts to clarify one demand from the occupation ranged from cries to revoke corporate personhood to a freeing of the unicorns. The split between coordinators and physical occupiers also became apparent, mapped out in the two sides of the camp. Online, one can be very selective in choosing what to reveal, and alliances can form on very superficial information. However, physical occupation requires a much more serious commitment, forcing people to literally take a stand. Faced with increasing obstacles, the differences between the occupiers became increasingly apparent: the fragmentation of space towards individual tents was one of the last steps before the park was vacated. The polyphony of discussions generated allowed for everyone to take a part in the protest. However, when it was time to take action, many simply logged off. The influence of digital communication on protests is apparent, however, it will be some time before it is fully capitalized upon.

  2. Alexandre Hamel

    Massey and Snyder’s articles on the Occupy Wall Street movement provide an inside look at the events that culminated in the occupation of the Zuccotti Park from September 17th to November 15th 2011. The privately owned public park was totally transformed and taken over by the people as a demonstration of a new “way of practicing politics and public life”. Activists and protesters mobilized and occupied the park reshaping it to suit the needs of this self-sustaining society. The environment was transformed into an autonomous microcosm that would accommodate programmatic areas such as: library, assembly space, sanitation, kitchen, medical, sacred space, sleeping area, etc. By taking over a corporation owned public park the general public, or the 99%, demonstrated not only how a new model for an anarchist society could function, it also generated a broad discussion fueled by the various social networks about questions of social justice. The physical mobilization was only one part of the whole Occupy phenomenon; the online discourse had a tremendous global impact in bringing awareness and attention to the manifestation. It became a framework for organizational purposes, but also a way for people to voice their opinions and contribute to the event’s momentum. The ‘One Demand’ was an important part of the discussion which was submitted to a public vote using Facebook. The responses were quite diverse ranging from ‘eat bacon’ to the most popular ‘revoke corporation personhood’. That being said, we can see how the internet and social media became an essential part of the process. Even if it sometimes polarized the discourse, it made it grow exponentially. On the other hand, the virtual did expose one weakness. Why go manifest in person when u can do it from the comfort of your own home? The issue becomes the weight of the impact that an e-riot has compared to a physical one. In the case of the Occupy Wall Street events or any other revolution, social media and the online tools become a great way of intensifying the debate, but it cannot sustain it on its own. Concrete actions have to illustrate tangibly the issues at stake to make a real difference.

  3. Social networks instantly organize strangers in groups according to affinities and beliefs, allow them to share their private struggles on public networks. But occupying is a very physical activity. It is only truly significant and efficient if it bothers, and if it offers a physical and tangible obstacle to everyday life. Wether it ends up helping impeding the cause, conventional corporate media coverage is essential to publicize what is happening, and these medias prefer broadcasting images of the tangible activities of camps rather than twitter and blog quotes.

    I believe that social medias are only relevant for how they create awareness for a cause, and in cases where their ”aggregative, rhizomatic, and exponentially expanding character’ is actually transfered into physical events. Digital communication itself is too easy to ignore. The need for encampment for the success of the movement confirms the importance of giving tangible spaces to ideas, and that is where architecture is relevant.

    Tents in Liberty park were discouraged because of how privacy allows for unseen violence, drugs, alcohol and weapon storage. Privacy was frowned upon because it can not be controlled and is therefore risky. I find it interesting that they were promoting radical openness take a stand against the corruption and abuses of the financial system that are only made possible because they are and concealed from the public. At the same time, that the ‘1984’ idea of permanent surveillance and control seems to me somewhat incompatible with concepts of revolution and revolt.

  4. I spent all of last summer working in the financial district and I had not realized until now that the Occupy movement had previously settled down in Zuccotti Park. The pictures on the web are quite contrasting to what we experienced during our daily lunches there: a homogenous field of men and women in dark suits surrounded by an endless swarm of tourists and pigeons. I wonder which one really was more alarming, the suits or the occupiers. We saw few remaining occupiers lingering on the sidewalks in front of the Trinity Church and were dismissed daily by the police during hot summers days. Sporadically, some would settle on the steps next to our office, in front of Federal Hall which would never last very long. The movement seemed dead. And although the occupy movement seemed active within the social networks, the physical occupation of a place has significantly more impact then the digital dissemination, no matter how pervasive it might be.

    Other than the blunt and real-life effect one has through its physical presence, occupying a space necessarily involves cohabitation with its direct surroundings. It requires a certain give-and-take for its success which generates a stronger impact. I find it interesting how the neighboring commerces of the park offered help and even serviced their WC to the occupiers. There has certainly been a change of attitude towards the occupiers since the settlement. As Chloé pointed out, paradoxically the occupiers remained behind the privacy of their tents while demanding complete transparency from the corporates. The fragmentation of the camp also shows how cohabitation within the spaces struggle themselves require much effort. These elements partially explain the change in attitude. Ultimately, crowd protesting is most powerful when it leads to organizing strong and large physical spatial interventions. The spring and summer of 2012 student protest movement in Quebec certainly shows that mobilization through social networks has incredible potential. What is alarming however it the regulation and control of these networks. If individuals foster the movement through ‘producing, selecting, punctuating, and diffusing material’, one can assume that such actions may also be performed by a general more constricting regulating framework.

  5. Zucotti Park, the epicenter of the Occupy movement last fall, radically changed during the nine weeks of its occupation. In this rather inhospitable area of the city, the park was a transitional space enclosed by privatized skyscrapers. Although it had a very short life as an occupied space, the ghost of Occupy Wall Street will linger over it for a while. I experienced Occupy Wall Street in the fall of 2011, as I visited New York with friends: we went to Zuccotti Park twice, once during the day, and another time in the evening. It was the end of October, just after the first snowfall, the camp got colder, darker and less networked, as mentioned by Johnathan Massey and Brett Snyder in “Mapping Liberty Plaza.” Zucotti Park was two-sided: during daytime, it was festive, animated, with Occupiers and visitors participating to workshops, playing music, meditating, etc. During nightime, however, it became quite scary: most Occupiers retreated to their tents, very few people would gather outside except during General Assemblies, as the absence of lighting and heating prevented any type of outdoor gathering.

    Occupy Wall Street was nevertheless successful in raising awareness on privately owned public spaces (POPS) such as Zucotti Park. In my opinion, this liminal situation made it an ideal laboratory for contemporary protests, as a site where the boundaries of privacy and publicity are blurred, not only physically, but also legally, socially, and culturally. Occupy Wall Street, however, got lost in its (lack of) organization. Despite its functional zones, clearly distinct from one another, Occupiers were not unified under a single demand, which made their cohesion even more difficult. Tents, identified as one of the causes of the decline of the movement because they splintered the ‘public’ space in ‘privatized’ spaces, deserve to be examined more carefully.

    Camille Bédard

  6. Mylène Carrière:

    In the two essays, Massey and Snyder are looking at the Occupy movement while looking at two different aspects of it. The first one, “Occupying Wall Street: Places and Spaces of Political Action” is looking at the occupy movement in general and his relationships with online activism as well as the use of privately owned public spaces (POPS). The title of the second one, “Mapping Liberty Plaza” is quite revealing. In this one, authors are mainly looking at the organization of the space, the relationships between the organizers and occupiers, as well as the impact of the space chosen and its surrounding.

    The Occupy movement, which basically reclaims public space, had taken place on a POPS. This new type of “public” space demonstrated the potential of those places. Since the regulations on it were private, occupiers were able to use it differently than a general public park. This is tackling the concepts of public and private in our environment. How come a political action occurred on a POPS rather than a common public places? Shouldn’t a public space be more representative of the population?

    Then, the potential of the social network is definitely important. It can mobilize people within a short amount of time, but at what point this tool starts to become too easy to click and be part of a movement? Is an online movement as relevant as a physical one? As Chloé mentioned earlier, I think social network are doing an awesome job in raising awareness, but they cannot be as strong as people being on site and dedicating their precious body corporate time to a cause.

    Finally, the organization within the Liberty Plaza is quite interesting to study. Already at the beginning there was a need for organizers and occupiers. Is the positions of the organizers is as legitimate as the one of the occupiers? Should a movement like this be manage or should it be more anarchical? What is the architect’s role in those kinds of protests?

  7. The article explains how the occupy movement, occurring last year in New York City and recreated in cities around the globe, was a contemporary example of a movement actively occupying a privately owned public space, and the design concepts behind its functionality and evolution over time. In this modern day protest, an online counterpart came along to document the event, as well as become an open platform for ideas and organization.

    The physical manifestation in Zuccotti Park showed the potential of a housing project defying rules of zoning and codes, showing the unfolding of a “leaderless” society where we could work together outside the dominance of that 1%. Unfortunately, the odds that 99% of the rest of the population would all have the same intents was the demise of at least the base camp’s portion of the movement. The Daily Show’s skit which shows a plan view of the park, marking a “downtown” and “uptown” division, highlights the irony of the situation; that while the goal was to advocate a free and leaderless society, they’d been there eight weeks and “already had a ghetto”.

    While I understand the goals of the protest, history shows that time and time again these new societies ultimately create class systems, exactly what they are fighting against. The architectural development of the park depicted this gradient of wealth from one end to the other. The coming of winter forced occupiers to create shelter, breaking this open forum of political activism. The final retreat to an online camp is an interesting notion, as it does follow the ideals of everyone having the opportunity to be “heard”. But heard by who exactly? This example of activism showed the impact of physical presence, but after building a microcosm mirroring society, does the counterpart of the internet really pose a solution? In its endless sea of opinions, has it contrived an even more vanishing platform, lacking structure, requiring seemingly insurmountable effort to make a distinctive collective impact?

  8. Tanya Southcott

    In their exploration of Occupy Wall Street, Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder track the transformation of Zuccotti Park in New York over the 9-week period in fall 2012 from corporate plaza to “a testing ground for radical ideas about the reorganization of state and society”. Their research parallels the virtual and physical presence of occupation, the ‘hypercity’ that depends on navigation of both terrains for sustenance and survival, and emphasizes the role of the intersection between media and park to engage a greater citizenry by permitting participation at both the individual and collective level.

    What is not evident from their mapping exercise that comes out in other threads of our discussion, is the personal accounts of those who witnessed, experienced or participated in the Occupy movement in particular its physical manifestation at Liberty Park. The contrast between Massey and Snyder’s ‘taskmap’ of Zuccotti Park and Camille’s relay of the changing character of the park from day to night suggest a potency in eyewitness accounts that brings a richer context to an event. This may be particularly true for Occupy in its absence of a singular message of protest. According to Massey and Snyder, “Occupy yielded a polyphony of discussions in the agoras of the hypercity”. While Occupy online gave voice to this idea in efforts like the 99 Percent Project and “What is our one demand”, how this ‘polyphony’ manifested itself in the physical space is less clear. What was the individual experience of the coordinator, the occupier, the police? How was the real estate company involved, other than by the ‘donation’ of their three-quarter-acre site? Massey and Snyder acknowledge that divisions of class, education level, ethnicity, sexuality and gender quickly emerged, despite efforts to avoid hierarchy and formalization wherever possible. if occupation is touted for its ability to rewrite social and spatial codes, for whom are we rewriting, and to what end?

  9. The two articles written by Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder, discusses and maps the spatial occupation and reclamation of Zuccotti Park, a privately owned public park in the heart of New York’s financial district.
    Drawn at six time points, the maps “track the transformation of a staid corporate plaza into a testing ground for radical ideas about the reorganization of state and society.” While obviously differing from a typical hierarchical community, the occupiers needed to adopt a “set of rules for self-governance that included zero tolerance for violence, abuse, property destruction, and drugs and alcohol.”
    It seems in fact that most issues such as drumming regulations and site clean-up duty had to be dealt with as the occupation progressed no matter how much for-thought there might have been. In cities such as Vancouver, the occupation would have been much more successful had these regulations been addressed through social networking as did the Zuccotti Park movement. The movement in Vancouver began to fail as a result to poor communication between occupiers and sympathy from the public began to dissolve as a result to issues of deaths due to drug overdoses and destruction to park grounds. The occupation in Vancouver, however, became, as is usually the case in this city, a discussion about providing help for the city’s enormous homeless community and drug addicts. On the other hand, the occupation of Zuccotti park, as shown in the article “Mapping Liberty Plaza” reveals a lot about the nature of the occupy movement as a radical housing project.
    I don’t think that it’s necessarily more important for people to be on site and dedicating their body and time to a cause. Much like providing an architect or a director for a project, a “coordinator” or an outsider point of view often provides more insight (or at least a different view) into the happenings occurring inside the park. The article itself is an example of a culmination of two points of view established by two authors – one who “tracked the movement’s use of new media to expose inequalities” while the other spent more time “visiting Liberty Plaza and occasionally participating in rallies.” It is the combination of interior/occupier and exterior/coordinator points of view (mitigated through the internet) that establishes a clearer picture of the entire project and its progress.

  10. The Occupy Wall Street was a social movement in 2011. As a collective form of micro society, the OWS succeeded by increasing awareness to the general public towards social inequality to the mass. Its impact is unquestionable; its model has been adapted in other similar movements around the world as responses to many different social injustice. It also manifested into a new form of public space that reflects contemporary social conditions.

    The movement experimented with establishing a virtual community. Technology was a crucial tool to enable the virtual community of OWS. As more and more people communicate through social media, a duality was created between the physical and virtual world of the movement. The flexibility for social media allowed remote communication and collaboration that almost completely unrestricted and uncontrolled. The movement also became a virtual community and distinguish itself as an equally important entity for collaboration in the movement. Ironically, the movement has ended physically, while it remains active on the virtual realm.

    It is interesting to observe the increasing dependence on technology in this event. Afterall it was a movement with no apparent leadership and decisions were collectively produced, which demonstrated the social dependence imposed upon it. There is a level of chaos and craziness that exists along OWS; the movement was by no means an ideal model for running a society, but it did provoke us into experimenting with new forms of social construct with aids of new media.

  11. The Occupy movement in New York is a well established one. Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder explore the foundations of the movement as a as a ‘polyphony of discussions in the agoras of the hypercity’ and describe the describe its evolution on Zuccotti Park through a 9 week period. Indeed the movement did have to evolve as time passed, turning what began as camp ground on a corporately owned site, to a state with a governing system tactically responding to the ever suffocating laws of the city.

    What is interesting to me is the decision for the movement to take a passive stance in the city, using the park as an agora for discussion in a form of protest, rather than actively chanting their frustration. Both forms of protest demand full participation from it advocates, however the former gains strength in its duration, simultaneously losing strength in numbers. The effort then is spent in trying to maintain the group, keep order all while working within the laws that would otherwise have the movement disbanded. Zero Tolerance rules become a necessity as the once self-organized crowd finds itself under the influence of desire that would take away from the cause. The dependancy on social networking and crowd sourcing becomes an essential aid to strengthen the movement, as it does not require vast amount of invested interest but is indicative of mass audience. However, turning to the internet gives it a label, a purpose reduced to a statement, and narrows the vision of the movement. Inevitably, the physical ground is cleared, as the city will only tolerate so much. A move that sparks a beginning of the beginning.

    Between the viral nature the movement took on with the help of the social media and the physical manifestation of the camp, I think the internet played a much more powerful role. Its application had and continues to have ramifications all over the country (the power of the 99% has made changes in taxation in the U.S economic system, asserted by its still standing President). However I believe that it was validated and sustained by the act of people congregating in a physical space. The tangibility of presence is something that the social media can only ever imitate but never really be. Presence on the site suggests invested interest, describing the struggle that is worth the cause.

  12. Yousef Farasat

    Besides demonstrating the incredible power of the social movement, mobilized again western corporatocracy, both in the physical and virtual space, the Occupy Wall street Movement also revealed important questions about the notion of the public space. As mentioned by the authors, the “occupation of Zuccotti Park was made possible by ambiguities in the POPS system”. As noted by Lisa Foderaro of the New York times “by contrast to New York city parks that all have curfews (the latest 1 A.M), privately owned public spaces are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “So an encampment like the one at Zuccotti park would not be possible in city parks, where structure like tents are prohibited without a permit”. However according to Foderaro, privately owned public spaces that do not have curfews may still impose “reasonable” rules regarding behavior”. After the debacle that resulted in the removal of the protesters from Zuccotti Park, I believe that there are several important questions that need to be addressed? How can the private entity impose regulations on a space, which was given to the public in return for zoning concessions? Should those concessions not void their right of ownership to those spaces? Who determines what the reasonable rules are regarding behavior? And who enforces these rules on the property? Can a private owner with the help of a private security firm remove users who do not comply with their regulation? Unfortunately, I am quite certain that after the Zuccotti incident, the working minds of the corporate class are already hard at work to find ways to limit the right of the public to these spaces.

  13. Occupy is an interesting phenomenon that I feel has a lot of potential. As architects/designers/artists if we get involved and creatively think through how our built environment through the public spaces can become spaces of collective action then there may be some opportunity for such a movement to sustain itself. Massey’s analysis through mapping shows clearly the possibilities of a temporary encampment and its sustenance through the virtual space even after the physical protest is gone. The public sphere offers tremendous opportunities but it is to the physical space that allows the physical bodies to come together to occupy a place which is collectively agreed upon as an innovative concept in a democratic society unlike the protests before.
    In my interaction with people involved with Occupy Montreal I have made some very interesting discoveries. ALthough the issues across the border are much more complex with student riots the activists who came to Occupy did not have a clear road map of what they were after. As a result in some people’s opinion it was not as effective as Zuccotti. Also, the physical, socio-political aspects played into it as well – the surrounding business and the corporate community didn’t give it much attention and the Occupy became a shadow to contend with for them. Despite of all the challenges, I feel that there is a real potential for social change embedded in such a grass roots movement. It allows citizens to come together in a physical space as bodies in be part of a collective spirit that ultimately binds us all together as a community which then leaves on via digital space as in case of Occupy Montreal who are still very active and every week go to different occupy neighborhoods – they say they are a fluid community and come together as and when need be and also once a month they claim their rights to the streets as a physical gesture.

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