New Directions in Global Occupation: Notes on the 35-City #interOcc Conference

October 26, 2011 admin PerspectiveComments Off

Yes, transglobal inter-Occupation collaboration is on the rise!  Many favorable developments seem poised to come out of the increasing solidarity between Occupy movements worldwide.

Part 1: Notes from the First #interOcc Conference on Global Movement Building
Part 2: Technology, Horizontal Organizing, and the Inalienable Human Voice

On Monday evening, October 24, four of us from Occupy Santa Cruz skipped out early from GA to sit around a telephone and participate in a conference on this topic.  As far as I can tell, the call–organized by a group of Wall Streeters calling themselves “Movement Building NY”–was the first broad-scale live collaboration of its type.  The energy in the room, and pulsing through the wires, was suitably intense and inspiring.

There were around two hundred people on the line, representing thirty-five occupied cities.  It was extraordinarily gratifying to hear not only the ideas and concerns of fellow occupiers in Boston, Tuscon, Humboldt, Austin, Denver, Asheville, Boise, New York, Philly, Santa Barbara, Egypt… but also just to hear the individual voices and expressions of enthusiasm coming from these many varied activists themselves.

Part 1: Notes from the First #interOcc Conference on Global Movement Building


What follows is a synthesis of the main findings of the first #interOcc conference, perhaps flavored by my own observations during these first three weeks of #OccupySantaCruz.  I won’t attempt to fully lay out each and every thought revealed by this call, which were summed up pretty well in the minutes.  The call itself might soon be distributed as an audio recording.

The first main discussion attempted to determine our goals for inter-Occupation communication.  From the six breakout groups, several strong purposes for such communications emerged.

Goals for #interOcc Communication

  • Coordinate global days of action and global campaigns
  • Share best practices and resources, particularly between parallel working groups
  • Compile media on successful actions and outreach efforts
  • Support the development of newer and less-organized occupations
  • Build global camaraderie and enthusiasm
  • Provide mutual support and solidarity in times of crisis

The second discussion tried to elicit the greatest needs and sharable assets of the individual occupations.

Common Occupy Needs

  • More occupiers, better outreach, full participation of the 99%
  • Physical infrastructure and communications/information infrastructure
  • Cultivating an accurate representation in mainstream media
  • Integration of diverging GA and campsite cultures
  • Comfortable and safe environments, weather tolerance
  • Strategies to deal with violence and disruption
  • Transparency between and among working groups
  • Better defined relationships between working groups and the GA, especially regarding delegation and accountability
  • To improve the Process, always

The third discussion briefly addressed how to further develop #interOcc communication.

Next Steps for #interOcc Communication

  • Establishing bioregional assemblies
  • Continuing to organize national and international conferences
  • A number of potentially useful web structures are in development
  • [And here I submit the hashtag #interOcc for further discussion of inter-Occupation matters]

This first national #interOcc conference was damn effective, and I look forward to the next one.  I also look forward to #OccupySantaCruz establishing communications with a bioregional assembly.  Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Humboldt, Sacto, San Jose, Santa Barbara: let’s talk-ccupy!


Part 2: Technology, Horizontal Organizing, and the Inalienable Human Voice

Activist essentials? A deathly buttload of high tech

Activist essentials? A deathly buttload of high tech

This was never meant to be a report on technology, but–and noting social media’s enabling impact on the Arab Spring–it’s impossible to ignore the how this confluence of modern communication platforms allowed us to conduct, in only two hours, a remarkably productive workshop incorporating hundreds of geographically-widespread and leaderless organizers.

The teleconference system allowed for facilitation by handraising and breakout group discussions of definite length.  Minutes were live-edited for all to see in a Google Doc, the chat pane of which also allowed for an auxiliary conversation by text.  Twitter let me share these realtime notes with my #OccupySantaCruz family who weren’t in the room.  And for fun, we were able to peek in on the half-dozen Wall Street call organizers by video livestream.

Just as our general assembly Process allows us productive decisionmaking sans hierarchy, these lifeless and opinionless information technologies were extraordinarily conducive to horizontal organizing on a vast geographic scale.  A worldwide call–which began in a chaotic jumble of squawks and hollers–rapidly organized, by means of these technologies, into ordered discussion and a useful document to continue working from.

Such a meeting could not have been conducted perhaps only five years ago.  This speaks to the great potential of new communication methods for grassroots organizing.  But it also begs the question: How will we continue to organize should the technologies develop an opinion, or the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google find themselves no longer sympathetic to our cause?  Not to mention: Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and the other controllers of large infrastructure, including governmental bodies.

To my knowledge, no sufficiently distributed and resilient communications network (HAM radio, at best?) has yet been thoroughly developed, should we require an alternative to the more centralized networks as they fail us.

#interOcc communication, as long as it remains possible, seems a potentially powerful force for both the development of individual decentralized occupations, and for the possibility of pursuing larger-scope #OccupyEarth/#OccupyGaia goals.  But only our biological voices are completely inseparable from us, which is fine, because when it comes down to it: the real organizing is face to face, on the streets and on the streams, and the next GA is always tomorrow.

Andy (OSC Media Group) does twitters at @a_sunspeck and can be contacted at a{at}sunspeck{dot}com