Developers hope to get the site up and running as soon as January, giving protesters somewhere to occupy during wintertime: their computers.
A proposal on how to perpetuate the creative and cooperative spirit of the occupations and transform them into lasting forms of social organization.
This is a proposal made by a group of concerned global citizens who also act as volunteers for Take the Square, United for Global Change, 15october.net, European Revolution, WL Central and Reflections on a Revolution (ROAR). We do not pretend to represent or speak on behalf of anyone but ourselves.
The Global Square: Towards an Online Platform for the Occupy Movement
In its most recent tactical briefing for the Occupy movement, Adbusters correctly pointed out that, “of the many questions swirling around #OCCUPY, the most challenging is how to gel into a global movement without sacrificing the decentralized, leaderless model.” In the wake of the global day of action on October 15, the question now arises how our movement can evolve new organizational structures that will allow the assemblies — and their highly innovative participatory model of decision-making — to survive beyond the occupations and become a permanent fixture of our emerging global society.
How, in other words, can we perpetuate the creative and cooperative spirit of the occupations and transform them into lasting forms of social organization — at the global as well as the local level?
Currently, the organization of the occupations and the collaboration between them rests in part upon the innovative use of social media. However, as a group of volunteers who were directly involved in the coordination of the worldwide protests of October 15, we have found the existing social media to be increasingly restrictive in their functionality. While Facebook and Twitter have been very helpful for disseminating basic information and aiding mass mobilization, they do not provide us with the tools for extending our participatory model of decision-making beyond the direct reach of the assemblies and up to the global level.
What we need, at this point, is a platform that allows us to radically democratize our global organizational efforts. In addition to the local squares, we now need a global square where people of all nations can come together as equals to participate in the coordination of collective actions and the formulation of common goals and aspirations. For this reason, we call upon the revolutionary wizkids of the world to unite and assist in the development of a new online platform – The Global Square – that combines the communicative functions of the existing social networks with the political functions of the assemblies to provide crucial new tools for the development of our global movement.
The aim of the platform, in this respect, should not be to replace the physical assemblies but rather to empower them by providing the online tools for (trans)national organization and collaboration. The ideal would be both to foster individual participation and to structure collective action. The Global Square could be our own virtual Zuccotti Park, serving as a public space where different groups can come together to organize their local assemblies — and where different assemblies can join hands to coordinate their collective projects. In a way, The Global Square could be a groundbreaking experiment in building a global participatory decision-making system from the grassroots up.
To be more precise, the specific tools provided by this online platform could include the following (note that this list is far from exhaustive and will grow organically to include many other functionalities):
An interactive map that lists all ongoing assemblies around the world;
A search option allowing users to find squares, events, working-groups, etc.;
An aggregated news feed that lists the most relevant ‘status updates’ shared by the various assemblies (à la Facebook);
Individual ‘pages’ for each local square/assembly where participants can organize collectively, including the following functionalities:
– A calendar with upcoming events/actions;
– A forum for public debate, with the ability to open different threads;
– A list of all relevant documents/minutes uploaded by the assembly;
– The ability to create and edit new documents collaboratively;
– The ability to vote on specific decisions;
– The ability to submit new proposals.
A public and private messaging system that allows all individual users and assemblies to communicate and exchange information, reinforcing solidarity and mutual collaboration;
The ability to ‘scale-up’ local decisions, actions, and initiatives to the global level through a ‘sharing’ system that allows local assemblies to pose ideas, votes, and proposals to other assemblies in a horizontal, non-hierarchical fashion (i.e., straight from the local to the global level).
Furthermore, The Global Square should be 100% multilingual and open-source, so a community of developers can continue to add languages as well as functions.
Facebook and the other social networks have until now only offered the possibility to share and promote content. The Global Square, by contrast, should encourage the active participation of citizens, the consolidation of online working groups, the collaborative scheduling of events, the establishment of consensus, the process of participatory budgeting, and the exchange of needs, proposals and ideas – in a local and a global context – between individuals and assemblies. Furthermore, to promote the widespread uptake of the platform, the creation of a minimalist, user-friendly and aesthetically-pleasing design is of the utmost importance.
We are aware of the existence of social platforms like n-1.cc, used by the Spanish movement, yet we feel that these have a number of shortcomings. They are not very user-friendly and not universally accessible for citizens from different national backgrounds. Also, resulting from a lack of funds and time, these platforms have not been able to develop the level of complexity required to provide all the functionalities listed above. We realize that the project we are proposing is a very ambitious one. But we hope that our movement can seize this opportunity to prove once and for all that creativity, innovation and dynamism can flourish in a collaborative, non-profit framework — and that it is possible to ensure a form of participatory democracy beyond the nation state.
We believe The Global Square could make a significant contribution to the consolidation of the assemblies and the development of our global movement. It is important to note, however, that the project will require significant funding, as well as a team of full-time professional developers. As we know that Occupy Wall Street plays an exemplary role within the movement, we are turning specifically to you for help in further refining this idea and initiating the search for funds and developers for a beta-version of the platform. We would be very interested to hear your ideas, suggestions and criticisms of this proposal. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, we have registered a domain (theglobalsquare.org — not active yet) that we would happily share with the movement (other suggestions are, of course, very welcome too). We are looking forward to a public conversation with all of you on how to make this idea work in a way that involves and benefits all. From the local village square to the global village square — it is time for us to unite!
The volunteers at:
Take the Square
United for Global Change
Reflections on a Revolution
The Global Square is something Occupy and other protesters need. To scale Occupy’s flat organizational structure, it will require a way for geographically dispersed groups to interact without using representatives. I believe in Occupy’s goal of widespread, grassroots institutional change, and The Global Square will help. However, here’s why it might not work as well as planned:
1. The Global Square Will Be An Echo Chamber
Coordinating different groups is great, but then what? A major distribution mechanism for the movement’s message has been the corporate social networks. That’s because there the message can reach an uninitiated mass audience and grow the movement’s ranks. In contrast, a dedicated protest could devolve into an echo chamber of the converted preaching to the converted
By organizing via these mainstream networks instead of on a dedicated protest network, there would be no loss of momentum from planning to execution. It would also make it significantly easier to onboard new members. If The Global Square and the Occupy movement at large is going to succeed, it will at least need a substantial presence on Facebook and Twitter. It might be better to build there too.
2. There’s Already Diaspora
Pent up discontent with Facebook and Twitter has in part been relieved through Diaspora and other existing open source social networks. Diaspora offers a great deal of flexibility in how individual, decentralized “pods” function. Working within Diaspora rather than parallel to it could be more efficient. A “Global Square pod” could also draw participation from those already familiar with Diaspora — a demographic that likely has a lot of overlap with protesters.
3. Still Subject To Subpoena
Unless data was housed in international waters, The Global Square’s data and messages would still be subject to subpoena by the government of wherever it was hosted. If located in the US where its developers reside, The Global Square could make it more difficult for law enforcement to request data than Facebook, or even Twitter which has historically been less cooperative with authorities. Still, its creators could be punished if they don’t comply with direct court orders for data.
With all the corruption and lack of transparency in today’s governments, changing the system is a noble goal. There are definitely advantages to developing a new, dedicated tool for this purpose. To accomplish its end goal, though, The Global Square will need to harness world’s frustration as efficiently as possible. An isolated network may raise too high a barrier to participation.\
American’s Be Fruitful and OCCUPY!!!
and please don’t forget to “Like”
Occupy Cyberspace-American Autumn’s