Dec 152011


Above is a link to a video that shows and explains a few of the techniques used at the Occupy Movement to convey messages across big, open spaces. One of the techniques is the “Human Microphone” where one person who is presenting a point speaks and others who can hear what that person is saying can repeat it back loudly to the other people around them. In this way the message is amplified so that all can hear. They use ‘Mic-check!’ to get the human microphone back onto the person making the point of it starts to drift off. The other technique that has proved useful in these big groups are hand signals helping to show agreement or disagreement with speaker and points being made. There are a few general signs that are told to the Generally Assembly before each meeting, each with a specific use:

  • The ‘twinkle’ hand sign means “I like this, I support what this person is saying, I agree.”
  • The ‘anti-twinkle’ means “I don’t like this, I disagree.”
  • The ‘direct response’ means only “I have a correction, a fact, or a clarifying question.” Restrictions on the use of this hand signal are that it can not be used to make arguments, argue values or to make a counter proposal.
  • The ‘Ears’ signal means “I can’t hear what’s being said.”
  • The wrap it up signal is to signal the speaker that the point being made is “taking too much time, I get your point please finish.”
  • The ‘process point,’ means “the process is not being followed and is off topic”
  • The ‘block’ signal means signals disagreement with the vote that has just been taken and is fundamentally against why the General Assembly is taking place.

The facilitator see these signs from the General Assembly and calls on them to voice their opinion of cause for disagreement.

Using techniques like these hand signals and the human microphone make it possible for large groups of people to organize and move as one. Much like a beehive in how they communicate. A collection of small animals can function together using ‘chemical signals’ much like the Occupy Movement uses hand signals and the humans microphone. In Kevin Kelly’s book Out of Control: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization he compares a swarm of bees to a “thundering animal,”(Kelly, 1994) because they moved so perfectly in sync and at such great speed. Taking William Morton Wheeler’s idea in his paper The Ant Colony as an Organism where he describes how these individual insects moving together become a whole organism, he describes a swarm of bees as, “a mob of 20, 000 united into oneness.”

The General Assembly and the Occupy Movement and the communicative techniques they employ give the sense that individuals are moving together in a distinct horizontally organized fashion. The peaceful demonstrations are the physical embodiment of this. In the past we have looked for analogies in nature that are comparative to our society. Take the Beehive for example, the Queen Bee is the leader, Drones do the work, Deputy Bees check out the best sites for nests. They’re thought to function much like our democratic governments function where the “Queen Bee” is elected by the hive and makes choices like assigning tasks to her workers. More recently as knowledge of how hive societies function it has become clear that what drives a beehive is not the Queen Bee. The Queen Bee is really only the reproductive system of a greater whole. In a similar way the leaders that are elected in a democratic government should serve the best interests of the greater public. In the opinion of the greater public, has not been happening, which I believe is root reason for the Occupy Movement.

Much like a beehive swarming to protect itself, the participants in the Occupy Movement gather to demonstrate the frustration and fear created from the decisions leaders are making that do not reflect the best interests of their people. The Occupy Movement organizes and use group techniques in a way where they can keep their identity as an entire organism and simultaneously remind the Queen Bees that they are also a part of that organism.

Kelly, K. (1994). Out of control:the rise of neo-biological civilization. (pp. 6-8). Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

 15 December 2011  Posted by Griffiths Occupy for Dummies, perspectives, take action  Add comments