Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The Occupy movement, how social media helped it get so big and its chances of causing real governmental change

In the past three months, Occupy Wall Street protesters have been generating Twitter hashtags (#), Facebook pages and Tumblr posts asking anyone who will listen to do one thing: #Occupyeverywhere.

And people have been listening.

What began as a simple e-mail from the Vancouver-based Adbusters magazine, asking its 90,000 listserv recipients to #OccupyWallStreet on September 17, quickly turned into a worldwide movement against government corruption, corporate scandal and unequal distribution of wealth (Schneider 2011).

Almost overnight, Occupy supporters were tweeting with #Occupy hashtags, launching Facebook pages and up loading their own “I am the 99%” photos to tumblr in solidarity with the thousands of people setting up #occupy camps in major cities around the world.

What about the Occupy movement made it spread so fast? How did social media help? And does it look like the Occupy movement will get any bigger than it already is?

Basically, it comes down to the ideas of spreadability, the effectiveness of social media platforms and the realistic potential for a grassroots movement like Occupy to impart actual governmental change.

Taking all that into account, here’s what I propose:

Although social media tools (like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) initially helped Occupy Wall Street protestors catalyze the spread of the Occupy movement, the disconnect between the Occupy’s social media presence and protester’s physical actions provides a poor foundation for further expansion of the Occupy movement.

Below, I've taken each topic (spreadability, effectiveness of social media platforms and realistic potential) and elaborated a bit more on how they relate to the #occupy movement and my argument.

What made Occupy spread so fast?

Effectiveness of Social Media Platforms
How did social media platforms help?

When it comes to the Occupy movement, social media was always one step ahead of traditional news organizations (Delany 2011). Social media tools helped to facilitate the spread of Occupy and I’ve taken two social media platforms (Twitter and Youtube) and broken down just how useful each tool was in spreading the Occupy message.


Like Twitter, Occupy supporters began to talk about the movement by creating videos and sharing them via Youtube.

While Twitter facilitated a text-only dialogue, Youtube supported what Burges & Green call in Youtube Digital Media and Society Series (2009), self-generated "broadcast media content that captured the public imagination."

In Robyn Gee's Huffington Post (2011) article timelineing the Occupy movement, she notes the hacker group, Anonymous, posted a video of support on August 30, 2011, weeks before the Occupy Wall Street protests began, ultimately gaining over 40,000 hits in over three months.

Users began uploading videos showing violent run-ins between the police and occupyers and these videos quickly spread all the way to front page news (Schneider 2011).

Not all of the videos about Occupy showed violence or were shakily shot. In fact, one video, uploaded to Vimeo, and HD video sharing site showed quite a bit of creative input and post-editing processes.

In fact, Burges & Green (2009) argue Youtube was created in order to spread things like Occupy videos. Youtube gave protesters a way to visually share their ideas and experiences to a network of online viewers who would, in turn, share those videos to other people (Occupy supporters and non-supporters) all around the world.

Realistic Potential & Conclusion
Can the Occupy movement get any bigger than it already is?

Note: All photos in this slideshow were shot at the OccupyDC camp on November 30, 2011.


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