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The winter of Occupy Wall Street?

David Meekby David Meek, University of Georgia

The Occupy Wall Street movement has focused a magnifying lens on the complex relationships between space and resistance. As we pay attention to the evolution of this movement, our understandings of what constitutes spaces of resistance are also evolving. The Northern hemisphere might have entered into the cold and blustery season of winter, but that doesn’t mean this is the winter of the Occupy movement. On the contrary, what were at first the visible occupations of many public spaces are morphing into online manifestations. Using new technology in the form of mass conference calls, an initiative known as InterOccupy has arisen, creating interconnected spaces of resistance across the country and augmenting what in many cases are encampments dwindling in the face of continued repression. As Nate Kleinman, an Occupy Philly participant and organizer of InterOccupy, relates: “The [weekly] national calls have brought people together, including people who are otherwise isolated in their own occupations…there’s usually a strong particular culture at individual occupations. It’s immensely valuable to have a place once a week where people come together from across the country and share ideas and their hopes for what the movement can accomplish” (quoted in Elliot 2011).

Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by these sons and daughters of New York City...

The evolution of these new communication spaces should not come as a surprise to critical geographers due to the extensive scholarship on resistance and the role of communication spaces in providing opportunities for resistance (Adams 1997; 1998; 2009; Gorman and Malecki 2002; Hands 2011; Mamadouh 2004; Meyers 1994). As I’ve noted elsewhere, “with the geographic constraints on communication increasingly dissolving, new forms of collective action are arising that transcend traditional conceptions of cultural and spatial fixedness” (Meek forthcoming). The spatial and temporal relationality between InterOccupy and the occupations in various cities provides further evidence for a move away from the conception of online and physical space as dichotomized (Castells 1996; Miller and Slater 2000). Exploring the evolution of the Occupy movement, and its utilization of new media spaces to coordinate members highlights the relations between physical space and cyberplace as a continuum. Rather than taking place either in urban encampments or in conference calls, we see these spaces as relational and reciprocally constitutive. In addition, focusing on these spaces as being located along a spatial continuum brings into question the nature of political participation: is one’s participation in conference calls and the territorialization of cyberplace any less authentic a form of resistance than occupying Wall Street itself? As we watch the evolution of Occupy along with the change of seasons, we are reminded how participation and resistance continue to evolve alongside the transformation of social media.

References

Adams P (1997) Cyberspace and virtual places. Geographical Review 87(2):155-171

Adams P (1998) Network topologies and virtual place. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88(1):88-106

Adams P (2009) Geographies of Media and Communication: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

Castells M (1996) The Rise of Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell

Elliott J (2011) Occupations in winter: Protesters nationwide link up through large-scale conference calls and plan what’s next. 26 December http://www.salon.com/2011/12/26/occupations_in_winter/singleton/ (last accessed 19 January 2012)

Gorman S P and Malecki E J (2002) Fixed and fluid: Stability and change in the geography of the internet. Telecommunications Policy 26(7-8):389-413

Hands J (2011) @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance, and Rebellion in a Digital Culture. New York: Pluto Press

Kluitenberg E (2006) The network of waves: Living and acting in a hybrid space. Open 11:6-16

Mamadouh V (2004) Internet, scale, and the global grassroots: Geographies of the Indymedia network of independent media centres. Journal of Economic and Social Geography 95(5):482-497

Meek D (2011) YouTube and social movements: A phenomenological analysis of participation, events, and cyberplace. Antipode DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2011.00942.x

Meyers D J (1994) Communication technology and social movements: Contributions of computer networks to activism. Social Science Computer Review 12(2):250-261

Meyrowitz J (1985) No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Miller D and Slater D (2000) The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Pickerill J (2004) Cyberprotest: Environmental Activism Online. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Torrens P (2009) Wi-Fi geographies. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98(1):59-84

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2 comments on “The winter of Occupy Wall Street?

  1. Pingback: ‘Anonymous’ and the question of authenticity | AntipodeFoundation.org

  2. Pingback: Can we get there from here? Teleological red-lining and avoiding the ghetto | AntipodeFoundation.org

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