Friday, November 18, 2011

The Nerd Interpretation of the Occupy Movement

Here is a useful insight by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic. It helps explain the success of the movement. It isn't a single idea, it is mechanism (in nerd terms an API, i.e. application programminf interface) that allows other groups to use aspects of other Occupy sites to build their own local version:
The most fascinating thing about Occupy Wall Street is the way that the protests have spread from Zuccotti Park to real and virtual spaces across the globe. Metastatic, the protests have an organizational coherence that's surprising for a movement with few actual leaders and almost no official institutions. Much of that can be traced to how Occupy Wall Street has functioned in catalyzing other protests. Local organizers can choose from the menu of options modeled in Zuccotti, and adapt them for local use. Occupy Wall Street was designed to be mined and recombined, not simply copied.

This idea crystallized for me yesterday when Jonathan Glick, a long-time digital journalist, tweeted, "I think #OWS was working better as an API than a destination site anyway." If you get the idea, go ahead and skip ahead to the documentation below. If you don't get, let me explain why it might be the most useful way of thinking about #Occupy.


What an API does, in essence, is make it easy for the information a service contains to be integrated with the wider Internet. So, to make the metaphor here clear, Occupy Wall Street today can be seen like the early days of Nearly everyone accessed Twitter information through clients developed by people outside the Twitter HQ. These co-developers made Twitter vastly more useful by adding their own ideas to the basic functionality of the social network. These developers don't have to take in all of OWS data or use all of the strategies developed at OWS. Instead, they can choose the most useful information streams for their own individual applications (i.e. occupations, memes, websites, essays, policy papers).


So, here's your guide to the Occupy Wall Street API. I realize that this is not a realistic API, just a useful frame, but we employ, for verisimilitude, the REST architecture, just like Twitter. That means we only have a few actions: Get (retrieve info), Post (create or update info), Delete.
Read on to get the list of possibilities. It is useful to read the whole article.

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