The Hipster Effect » protests Identity, society and work in the age of perpetual connectivity Tue, 26 Mar 2013 00:35:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How the police took Occupy’s privacy away /2011/11/16/how-the-police-took-occupys-privacy-away/ /2011/11/16/how-the-police-took-occupys-privacy-away/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 01:56:21 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=454 more]]> With just a few hours remaining until its forceful eviction, the scene at Occupy Wall Street bordered on the serene. An unusually mild November evening had brought protesters out of their tents and into the open, blissfully unaware that the New York Police Department was actively preparing to descend upon and shut down the Zuccotti Park encampment. Despite weeks of preparation involving hundreds of offices in New York and other occupied cities nationwide, the protesters never suspected a thing. While their own preparations were being carried out on wide open networks and public websites, the police operated entirely behind closed doors. They had what the protesters did not: a private network and the element of surprise.

Since its inception, the Occupy movement has relied on the internet and social networks to spread its message and to coordinate logistics. The #occupywallstreet tag has exploded in popularity on Twitter, thousands of people have joined hundreds of groups on Facebook, and dozens of cities worldwide have echoed the protest locally, creating their own websites and forums along the way. Information was spread far and wide and communication was instantaneous, but all of it was as much in view of the authorities as of the protesters. A recent U.S. court decision involving the Twitter accounts of WikiLeaks supporters shows us that even what seems private online – direct messages on Twitter, for instance – can now be released without the need of a warrant. The message is clear: we, the public, cannot use social networks for our own private communication. By joining Twitter, the recent court decision announced, we have forfeited the privacy of any communication carried out therein.

In the public realm, privacy in communication is largely relegated to one-on-one conversations. I can write you a letter, send you an email or give you a call, but the moment I communicate to a group on Facebook (even if it’s supposedly private), I have given up my right to privacy. The ability to carry out private, many-to-many conversations online does not currently exist. Any networks that do provide the ability to have such conversations are now, with the Twitter/WikiLeaks case precedent, legally able to release your personal information without a warrant. The reasoning behind this decision is that by agreeing to a privacy policy when you join a network – you know, those pages and pages of legal mumbo jumbo surrounded by cute graphics and bite-size slogans prompting you to hurry up and log in already – you have given up any expectation of privacy. So while we’re allowed to create protest websites and discuss their logistics online, we are not allowed to coordinate online group meetings in private.

The troubling part of what happened at Zuccotti Park last night is not that the authorities were able to widely communicate in private – that is, of course, an absolute necessity – but that we, the public, have no ability to do the same. It harkens back to the days when distributing subversive pamphlets was illegal and authorities could legally crack down on any group meetings where such forbidden topics were discussed. The Occupy movement has carried out all of its communication in the public eye. The police have been involved, the government has been involved, Wall Street has been involved; everybody was invited to participate in the conversation. Now that the police have evicted the Occupy Wall Street encampment – the only place where protesters were able to have private group discussions in a face-to-face setting – the movement is in need of a private place to continue the conversation online. Whatever the reasons for the eviction itself, by forcing individuals out of the only physical setting that allowed for private group discussions, the ability to have such discussions was effectively eliminated. Until we are able to privately communicate in a group setting online, there needs to be a physical counterpart to any protest or movement.

What the police shut down last night was not a campsite. It was a vital communication hub that now needs to be replaced.


Photo credit: Nick Gulotta


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Judge protesters by their values, not their clothes /2011/10/03/judge-protesters-by-values-not-clothes/ /2011/10/03/judge-protesters-by-values-not-clothes/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 18:16:01 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=183 more]]> “Dissent is patriotic”

“People over profit”

“Debt is slavery”

Despite the omnipresence of powerful homemade signs and slogans, many people took notice of something completely different at the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest: their tattoos and beards. One blog called the protest a “gathering of unwashed, parasitic hipster douche bags.” Another proclaimed it consisted of “angry actors, graphic designers and various other hipsters,” decrying its “teenage moralism.” Memes have been posted, angry tirades made, but did anybody actually take a look at the people who are occupying Wall Street?



Combining social dissent with a knee-jerk hatred of hipsters promises to get in the way of creating real social change. These days, carrying any one of the many traits associated with hipsterdom – skinny jeans, cotton leggings, thick-rimmed glasses, tattoos, piercings, beards, etc – automatically gives the media the right to call you the h-word. Unfortunately, once pegged as a hipster, you are instantly written off as a miscreant, a ne’er-do-well, as somebody who has no valid opinions and nothing to contribute to the cultural conversation. We’re at the point where wearing a single item of clothing can completely discount you and all of your opinions. But why?

What we have here is a catch-22. Over time, society has become more and more accepting of different modes of expression. Tattoos, mohawks, piercings – each was enough to incite riot a few decades back, but has since become widely acceptable. More and more cultural options continue to hit the market as the internet expands our shopping abilities and just about anything can be customized. Yet now that society has made it acceptable to freely self-express and provided the concrete opportunity to do so, it has also assigned a vitriolic label to anybody who dares take the bait: hipster. Fashion trends become markers of hatred. You are a hipster, and we know your kind.

It’s time we stopped judging not only the protesters on Wall Street, but anybody who happens to wear a certain type of clothing. We cannot continue to paint with such a wide brush, flippantly categorizing any person with an interesting mustache as being incapable of intelligent discourse. Society must now learn to accept that we are the ones who allowed people to dress the way they wanted, and it’s time to stop judging them for doing exactly that. Leave the hipsters’ fashion choices alone and concentrate on their actual agenda: planting the seeds of a conversation that can create real social change.


Video via BoingBoing

Photo credit: bogieharmond


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A beautiful anarchy /2011/09/28/a-beautiful-anarchy/ /2011/09/28/a-beautiful-anarchy/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2011 20:45:23 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=108 more]]> Whether they’re occupying Wall Street, revolting in Egypt, or rioting in Greece, the galvanizing ground for the recent uptick in worldwide protests is the same: the internet. More than just a place to spread ideas and sort out logistical issues, the internet itself has changed the way we view politics. As a new article by the New York Times points out, today’s youth is turning away from traditional political models in search of an experience similar to the one they find online. Yochai Benkler, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, explains:

“You’re looking at a generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are used to self-organizing… They believe life can be more participatory, more decentralized, less dependent on the traditional models of organization, either in the state or the big company. Those were the dominant ways of doing things in the industrial economy, and they aren’t anymore.”

Meanwhile, public attitudes towards the press are hitting record lows as the openness of the web allows traditional paradigms to be called into question. And indeed, today’s internet-bred society is used to questioning everything not out of malice, but out of plain old-fashioned curiosity. In an age where the answer to almost any question is just a few clicks away, we are no longer willing to take old truths for granted. If told about a recent news story, we hop online and research it for ourselves. New restaurant in town? Hop online and see what people are saying about it. New movie in the theaters? Hop online and check out the cast. New politician coming into office? Hop online and check out his record. And so it goes.

The recently increasing rates of worldwide uprisings have at their core a simple truth: that modern culture is all about participation. Perhaps Laurence Lessig put it best when he noted that we’ve gone from a Read Only culture to a Read/Write culture. Be it politics, news or music, we want to play our part. We will not blindly accept decisions made behind closed doors. We will not obey rules without understanding their underlying reasons. We will prod and we will question, and when we ask “Why?” we will no longer accept the answer “Because.” We are living in the age of the remix, and until politics is able to adequately adjust to the realities of a participatory, internet-connected world, the uprisings will continue. And no amount of pepper spray will stand in our way.


Photo credit: Ian Murphy

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From Che to V /2011/09/17/from-che-to-v/ /2011/09/17/from-che-to-v/#comments Sat, 17 Sep 2011 21:41:42 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=17 more]]> Propelled into popularity by the film “V for Vendetta,” a new article by The Guardian points out that the Guy Fawkes mask has lately become an international symbol of rebellion. As recognizable now as images of Che Guevara and the hippie “peace” symbol before it, the new vanguard of political rebellion has adopted the mask as its own emblem du jour. Euclides Montes explains:

“…with the recent rise of harsher and more intrusive social media laws, where to be recognised by the authorities can lead to a prison sentence, it is telling that dissenting voices are turning to a symbol of anonymity as their symbol of protest.”

It’s also telling that the new voice of dissent chooses to band together as an anonymous whole rather than protesting as a group of unique individuals. Either way, you can’t deny the aesthetic value of a mob of people sporting a single poignant mask.

via PSFK

Photo credit: pittaya


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