Manuel Castells discusses the Occupy movements that swept the country in the early 2010s in Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. He writes of the decentralization, leaderlessness, and horizontal communication of the movement and various attempts to focus in on commonalities among the movements. The Internet is an important tool for communicating in the movement, as well as in analyzing it. Castells brings up an attempt to study the erratic, diverse movements of the Occupy protests through Twitter.
“An unpublished study by Kevin Driscoll and Francois Bar at the University of Southern California Annenberg Innovation Lab collected Occupy tweets continuously beginning on October 12, 2011 by comparing them against an evolving set of approximately 289 related keywords and phrases. During the month of November, they observed approximately 120,000 Occupy-related tweets on a typical day with a peak of over 500,000 during the raid of Zuccotti Park on November 15. The analysis of Gilad Lotan on Twitter traffic related to the movement shows that the peaks are associated with crucial moments in the movement,” (171)
I think this is very fitting for a movement for and by the people, to determine its pivotal events based on the collective attention given to it by huge amounts of people over the Internet. It’s also a very interesting project to try to find commonalities among diverse Occupy movements around the US. Is this a productive use of time, though? The demands and makeup of the different Occupy movements are very different from each other and perhaps finding commonalities diminishes each groups’ autonomy and importance. Smaller occupy movements often seemed to get swallowed up in the bigger ones like Occupy Wallstreet, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, etc – especially to outsiders who didn’t quite understand the movements and their intentional lack of centrality.