Monday, January 16, 2012

Daily Thoughts 01/16/2012

Portrait of French poet, journalist and writer, Anatole France, 1906 [picture] / Anders Zorn

Daily Thoughts 01/16/2012

I spent some time updating the Twitter and Facebook accounts of the Mount Vernon Public Library.

I also finished reading Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson.  William Gibson is known for having coined the term cyberspace.  This makes him very influential with all things internet.  He often writes about how people interact with computers. This includes digital film and virtual reality.   He has a wonderfully cosmopolitan feel to his wirting.  The essays are set in Vancouver, San Francisco, San Diego, Singapore, and other cities.  This makes the writing sophisticated.  The essays in this book are very short two to three pages.  For me this is just the right length.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr's Day of Service.  Many people today are doing service to help others in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Day of Service Honors Martin Luther King Jr. from CNN

My first hold came in for an electonic book.  I downloaded it to my Kindle for PC program.  For some reason, I had a little bit of trouble transferring it to my Kindle Touch, I have an older PC which did not recognize the new device.

The electronic book was This Changes Everything Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement, Edited by Sarah Van Gelder of Yes! Magazine.  The book is quite short 88 pages.  I also believe it does not quite represent the different viewpoints of Occupy Wall Street.  It is more like a snapshot of parts of the movement.  There were definite exaggerations with figures.

We learn that Adbusters planned the first protest as a protest against Wall Street involvement with government on September 17, 2011.  I question Sarah Van Gelder's statement that Adbusters is anti-capitalist, they are more focused on being against large publicly traded businesses, not against small business.  The initial protests seemed to be focused on separating big business from big government.

I also found Sarah Van Gelder's focus on drawing from foreign sources for the cause of the movement to be not completely accurate.  Saying that the protest came out of the Arab Spring and European economic protests is only part of the story.  2600 which is a hacker movement provided large amounts of computing power to Occupy Wall Street.  Also the forclosure crisis drove large parts of the movement.

I am not a huge fan of the general assembly idea. I think Occupy Wall Street has moved well beyond the 1960s.  I think that some of the traditions being described are not just anarchist, they are about more recent movements focsued on participatory government. This was not even touched on in This Changes Everything. If you take the time, the reader will find a strong Brazilian influence in Occupy Wall Street, especially emanating from places like Porto Alegre in Brazil.  Another element which is glossed over is the concept of the "electronic commons" or shared civic spaces available through the use of computers.  The people who are runing the Occupy Wall Street sites seem to have a very strong grasp of this.  They also seem to be able to use social media to reinforce this very well.

The one thing I found to be very interesting was the end of the book which focused on describing solutions to the problems of housing, economic contraction, and jobs.  Before this book, I had heard very little about how to solve the United States economic problems from Occupy Wall Street.  This book writes about solutions.  It reminds us that the United States belongs to its citizens.  It also reminds us that there are limits to speculation and tax havens.

I liked reading the book, but found it to be much too short, not inclusive enough, and too slanted.  There should have been more about the different groups that participated including unions, church groups, and nonprofit groups.  I also think it did not discuss many of the issues deeply enough.  There was not enough about the forclosure crisis, the student loan crisis, the bank bailouts, and environmental issues that drove many people to come support the movement.

There is a clear message that we need to reinvest in communities.  Part of this is asking people to put their money in local banks, buy from local businesses, and fund community investment in local government.  There are also demands for less outsourcing of jobs overseas, closing overseas tax havens, and breakup of monopoly businesses.  This is what was good about this book.

I also found that there was not enough about the intellectual underpinnings of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  There was nothing on the Occupy Wall Street Library, Cornel West, or the various writers, poets, and artists that supported the movement.

Hopefully, there will be a more complete book coming out soon on Occupy Wall Street.

Web Bits

The Coming War on General Computation by Cory Doctorow

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