engagement

Street Music

Douglas Schuler
The Public Sphere Project
Celebration of Public Music
Version: 
1
Problem: 

(note that the Problem Statement is still in work.....)

Music, including singing as well as the playing of instruments, has been a key element of the human condition for millennia. Unfortunately -- at least in the United States -- music has become more of a commodity, to be enjoyed passively and non-interactively. 

The rise of mass media is probably at least one of the culprits. 

Context: 

(note that the Context Statement is still in work.....)

Discussion: 

(note that the Discussion is still in work.....)

Street Music blurs the distinction between producer and consumer of music as well as the distinction between formal and informal venues for music production and consumption. 

Although street bands, including many of those found at Honk Fests, can be found at protests (including the Infernal Noise Machine (image below) that supported the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999), their actions are often political to a large degree by virtue of their publicness in an era of electronic or other formalized or mediated forms of music consumption. 

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-MLvzLlou4 for Environmental Encroachment's performance of Hashia.

 

Thanks to a member of the Bucharest Drinking Team and to Bob of Environmental Encroachment for their thoughts on the current breed of "new street bands" including their history and motivation. 

Solution: 

 

Solution in work:

something about establishing and supporting street music. More and more and more of it....

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Categories: 
products
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Media Critique
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photo of Church, a marching band from Santa Rosa, California. Shot by Douglas Schuler, June 1, 2012. Georgetown (Seattle, WA)
Information about summary graphic: 

Infernal Noise Machine, Seattle Washington

Tactical Media

Pattern ID: 
740
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
740
Alessandra Renzi
OISE/ University of Toronto
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Activist information campaigns and protests aimed at sensitizing the public to issues of social justice and politics often fail to reach an audience. In some cases, this is due to a reticence on the part of the mainstream media to tackle controversial issues. However, this can also simply happen because inadequate communication tactics prevent the public from identifying with or understanding the language used to convey the intended message. In other words, many actions organized by activist organizations go unnoticed, either because they do not succeed in showcasing their cause through means that cannot be ignored by the media, or because their lines of argument cannot be easily connected with the ways non-activist audiences experience the world.

Context: 

Tactical Media (TM) are a loosely defined set of practices that can be used by activists and community groups seeking to engage with the production of counter-information, as well as with its modes and possibilities of dissemination. In fact, the tactical circulation of information is a fundamental aspect of political intervention in the informational environment.

Discussion: 

"Tactical media are media of crisis, criticism and opposition. This is both the source of their power, and also their limitation. Their typical heroes are the activist, Nomadic media warriors, the pranxter, the hacker, the street rapper, the camcorder kamikaze..." (the ABC of Tactical Media)

Because of their ad-hoc character and their adaptability to different contexts, TM are hard to define. Hence, instead of “what is TM?” a more useful question is “how does TM work?” The following three examples are helpful to illustrate some of TM’s possible uses and outcomes.

Example one: During the last US presidential campaign Bush’s official website was cloned, with the alternative site featuring a critique of Bush’s agenda to become president. This site was set up by the Yes Men, a group of actors who impersonate representatives of important organisations at official meetings in order to subvert their messages in the mainstream media. Their stunt prompted Bush to announce on television that “there ought to be limits to democracy”.

Example two: Several labour activist groups in Europe, fighting against unstable working conditions use TM for their campaigns. The Italian group Chainworkers invented Saint Precario, the patron saint of precarious workers. His statue appears at demonstrations, public events and in public spaces, constructing “precarity” through familiar symbols, and leading the public to make its own connections between the procession, common people’s problems and today’s world market. Through San Precario and other similar games and actions, the issue of precarious labor has gained visibility within the EU and is now being discussed even outside of its borders--while more sustainable forms of social struggle against precarity are the background on which such actions rest.

Example three: Telestreet is a network pirate television stations run by activists and community groups who use free UHF frequencies and simple, low-cost technological devices to broadcast their video productions into Italian households. Telestreet programming is not solely aimed at counterbalancing Berlusconi’s monopoly on the mainstream media with alternative content, but also at experimenting with the medium of television as a space for cultural production and community building.

Generally, TM rely on artistic practices and "do it yourself" (DIY) media, created from readily available, relatively cheap technology and means of communication. A tactical medium is devised according to the context where it is supposed to function. This means that it is sensitive to the different sets of communicative genres and resources valued in a specific place, which may vary from street theatre and banner-dropping to the internet or radio. For this reason, TM actions they are very effective and can take on a wide variety of forms. For instance, they can mimic traditional means of information while circulating alternative content; they can subvert the meaning of well-known cultural symbols; and, they can create new outlets for counter-information with the help of new media.

In many cases, TM practitioners borrow from avant-garde art practices (e.g. linguistic sabotage and detournement), politics and consumer culture to trouble commonly held beliefs about every-day life. Such techniques–also called culture jamming–involve an appropriation of the language and discourses of their political target, which is familiar to the non-activist audience. Therefore, the subversion of the message’s meaning pushes the audience to notice where some strategies of domination are at work in a given discourse, raising questions about the objectivity of what is believed to be “normal.” TM actions creatively reframe known discourses, causing the public to recognize their limits. According to TM theorist David Garcia “classical TM, unlike agit-prop, are designed to invite discourse” (Garcia 2006), they plant the seeds for discussion by operating a fissure in what is considered to be “objective reality,” requiring a form of engagement to decode their message.

Despite many successes, TM practices like the Yes Men impersonations have often been criticized because their short-term interventions expose the weak points in the system but do not attempt to address them. However, TM should not be seen or employed as an isolated form of protest but as one tool for groups to reach wider audiences in a broader network of political struggle. In fact, even when they hijack the attention of the mass media, the Yes Men stunts and Saint Precario do not constitute an emancipatory practice in itself. Yet, they are a great example of how to bring topics to debate. As part of an organized campaign centred on a specific issue, such stunts can give resonance to voices otherwise unheard, and hopefully open up some space for a dialogue between minority and majority groups–or between minorities.

Moreover, TM practices can help make transversal connections between context-related social, cultural and political problems, and various organized sites of resistance. For example, the Telestreet network enables different activist groups and coalitions to use their space to support or showcase their own cause. Similarly, TM practices can be useful to create new memes that raise awareness of unjust social conditions, as in the case of Saint Precario.

Ultimately, it is important to maintain TM’s emphasis on experimentation, collaboration and the exchange of knowledge as part of a broader cartography of organized social struggle. For these reasons, there is a need to create more conditions where TM exploration of new possibilities for resistance can take place. Such projects can range from media literacy teaching to culture jamming workshops in schools, to festivals and temporary media labs where people can come together and develop creative ways to engage in protest and critique of the systems which govern their lives from an ever-increasing distance.

Solution: 

TM practices are marked by an ongoing attempt to experiment with the dynamics of media dissemination of information, searching for the most effective way to bypass the obstacles created during the diffusion of such information, in order to reach an audience. Thus, TM actions can help activists attract the attention of the mainstream media, as well as enable them to convey their message in a way that is intelligible to the audience.

Creative Commons Photo Credit: www.insutv.it

Pattern status: 
Released

Sousveillance

Pattern ID: 
386
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
386
Bryan
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
1
Problem: 

"One of the fundamental contrasts between free democratic societies and totalitarian systems is that the totalitarian government [or other totalitarian organization] relies on secrecy for the regime but high surveillance and disclosure for all other groups, whereas in the civic culture of liberal democracy, the position is approximately the reverse." -- Professor Geoffrey de Q Walker, now dean of law at Queensland University in Australia.

Over the past two decades, surveillance has permeated society in ways that only Orwell could have imagined. The increasingly low costs of electronics and data storage coupled with scare tactics like terrorism have given governments worldwide the green light to put public and private spaces under their eye. During 2008 alone, Sprint gave location data of their users over to law enforcement a total of eight million times.  The surveillance infrastructure is owned and controlled primarily by those with political and class privilege. This creates a situation where people can be watched but cannot "watch the watchers". As a result, the accountability of police, politicians, and other authority figures decreases.

Context: 

In any political / social context, from a liberal democracy to an authoritarian government. Sousveillance in a democratiic (or quasi-democratic) country is particularly important in times of overzealous governmental secrecy, propensity towards surveillance, and increasing political repression.

Discussion: 

"Steve Mann presents the notion of sousveillance as a method for the public to monitor the establishment and provide a new level of transparency. This has been the role of the press, but with its strong orientation toward positive feedback, the media has tended to focus on less relevant issues, which get an inordinate amount of attention. One such example was the media's fascination with Gennifer Flowers and her claim that she had had an affair with President Clinton." -- From Joichi Ito's discussion of Emergent Democracy. One of the first thing that George W. Bush did when he became president of the US was to place his father's writings (which by law were supposed to be made public) into secrecy.

We live in an age where ever-increasing portions of the population have turned to social networking where they divulge the most personal and private details of their life to their friends, their co-workers, and most anybody who cares to look. Facebook, Google, and other advertising giants track every website a person goes to with an ad or a 'like' button on it. People scan their loyalty cards at grocery stories and give their entire purchase history, name, number, and address to the highest bidder in exchange for a few dollars off their bill. Those who run their surveillance infrastructure have not been blind to this and have begun investing significant resources into monitoring social networking sites and rich sources of user-generated information.

No matter where one turns, they can find information on their fellow citizen that they would rather not have revealed. Security cameras, credit cards, and RFID-enabled identification cards track our every movement. Normal activities which one might not want the world to know about like visits to the pharmacy, an alleyway make-out session, and a visit to Planned Parenthood all become a spectacle for those on the other end of the camera to enjoy.

While some of the information garnered by dragnet surveillance is available to the public or those of small financial stature, most of it is locked in databases and storage systems run by the rich and powerful. In 2005, it was revealed that for the past five years the National Security Agency had been collecting wholesale internet traffic, call records, and other private information from millions of Americans without warrants, subpoenas, or any judicial oversight. In a 2001 report, the European Union validated a theory that the United States, in conjunction with allies such as the UK, operated a global surveillance network called ECHELON which could intercept most worldwide communications. It is said that through publicly and privately operated surveillance cameras, the average Londoner is photographed 300 times per day. The majority of people are watched with intense scrutiny throughout the entirety of their lives while the minority of people who commit the biggest crimes sit behind closed doors where they can execute their plans for financial and social dominance in privacy and without interruption. People no longer seem to be surprised to hear that the dash-cam of a police car was mysteriously off when the officer flew off the handle or that the video from a jail beating is missing.

How can we change this dynamic? How can surveillance systems actually be used for widespread social accountability instead of preserving the interests of those who own them?

Study after study shows that surveillance does not actually reduce crime or make the average person safer and a steady stream of news stories show that surveillance abilities are used improperly by those who have them. A study conducted by Hull University showed that one in ten women were targeted for 'voyeuristic' reasons by male camera operators. Norris, C. and Armstrong, G. "The unforgiving Eye: CCTV surveillance in public space" Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, Hull University, 1997. Seeing this, the simple solution seems to be to outlaw surveillance equipment entirely or create rules to hold its owners accountable. To some extent, this has already been done. The government is barred from using surveillance and search powers without obtaining necessary legal justification and corporations have similar but less stringent limitations. Nonetheless and unsuprisingly, these rules have not stopped widespread abuse as those who own surveillance systems are often the same ones who fare better in courts and the media due to societal privilege.

Solution: 

People must have the means to watch the watchers. Steve Mann's term "sousveillance" captures this idea. As the age of surveillance is here to stay (at least until we live in a world where people's privacy is put above the sanctity of property), there must be a way to change the dynamic of surveillance. Sousveillance requires tools which are easy for laypeople to use, a network for communicating among those who use them, and a method for spreading information that comes from sousveillance. There are many some tools such as Freedom of Information Laws, cell-phone cameras, and independent media networks which help facilitate sousveillance but there are not nearly enough and they are not as widely adopted as necessary. People must make these tools easier to use, put them into the hands of more people, and make their use ubiquitous enough to truly scare those who they are meant to keep an eye on.

Pattern status: 
Released

Online Anti-Poverty Community

Pattern ID: 
126
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
126
Penny Goldsmith
PovNet
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Anti-poverty advocates and activists are isolated in their own communities. They often do not have the communications and education and training resources they need to do their work. Poor people do not have the information they need in order to take control over their lives and get the resources to which they are entitled, or to advocate effectively for themselves. Lack of access to communication severely limits the opportunities for building communities where poor people can help themselves access the resources they need and where advocates and activists in the anti-poverty community can be involved in organizing for social change locally, nationally and internationally.

Context: 

The players in this online movement include poor people and advocates involved with community advocacy groups, settlement workers, multicultural groups, seniors organizations, disability groups, legal aid, test case interveners, labour organizations, public libraries, women

Discussion: 

Poverty is a debilitating worldwide problem that affects poor people directly, and society at large. Although access to information and resources is critical to overcoming poverty and alleviating the problems of people living in poverty, poor people and anti-poverty advocates traditionally have less access to the internet and other communications technology.

Although poverty and computers do not make for an obvious alliance, it is clear that the two worlds have to connect unless we want to have a society where access to information and resources is only for people who can afford access to the technology. Public access sites are rarely adequate to feed public need; users need people to help them do online research, and free printers to print out forms and information. Hosts of public access sites need money to keep equipment up-to-date and tech support to keep computers and internet connections running smoothly. Lack of access to communication makes it difficult to connect communities in the anti-poverty world outside their local regions.

PovNet is a non-profit society created in British Columbia, Canada in 1997. It is an online resource for anti-poverty advocates and poor people, created to assist poor people and advocates involved in the communities identified above through an integration of offline and online technology and resources. PovNet works with advocates and activists across Canada involved in direct case work and social action and justice. Some of these groups include: * Canada Without Poverty (http://www.cwp-csp.ca/), a national voice for poor people, working to eliminate poverty in Canada * The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/), a left-wing think tank doing research for change in social policy * Canadian Social Research Links (http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/), an all-inclusive resource for social policy information about poverty in Canada.

PovNet is an online home base for advocates in BC and across Canada. Its web site provides regularly updated information about issues and policy changes. Using PovNet resources is an interactive process. Advocates learn the tools because they find them useful in order to do the social justice and case work that they care about; poor and otherwise marginalized people find the web site when they need the information on it that is relevant to their lives.

For example, PovNet email lists have grown over the years to be an invaluable resource for specific campaigns (for example the Raise the Rates campaigns in both Ontario and British Columbia to raise welfare rates). They also provide an online support network for advocates working in sometimes quite isolated areas in British Columbia or in other parts of Canada. As one advocate put it: "I love the PovNet list - on the lighter side there's the kibitzing going on amongst the subscribers which often brings me to laughter - always a good thing in this job. On the serious side - the exchange of ideas and generous sharing of experience is a huge boon to those of us who often don't have time to pick up the phone to seek advice from our colleagues." Another PovNetter says: "The lists that I am a subscriber provide me with first hand current information on what issues are affecting BC residents and/or newcomers. I am able to provide useful information and referrals to some of the requests coming through PovNet lists. They are an invaluable and efficient resource for community advocates, settlement workers working with immigrants and refugees, especially those issues that are time-sensitive and need an immediate response."

Other PovNet tools include online education and training courses on PovNet U for advocates ("Introduction to Advocacy", "Disability Appeals", "Tenants' Rights", "Employment Insurance", "Seniors Residential Care Advocacy", "Dealing with Debt"). 

PovNet is a flexible tool in that it can adapt to needs as specific campaigns emerge. For example, we set up an email list for a  campaign to raise welfare rates, and created an online hub for papers and press releases when a group of anti-poverty activists travelled to tyhe United Nations in Geneva to speak on behalf of poor people in Canada on social and economic rights.

Building a successful online movement in anti-poverty communities include, first and foremost, the people who are involved in the movement. Start by finding local community workers who want to broaden their connections, getting together key people (without computers) to talk about what is needed and identify the technological limitations, communicate with advocates and activists in diverse anti-poverty communities including urban and ural, First Nations, aboriginal, diverse cultural communities, disability groups, women, youth, seniors, workers, human rights and anti-poverty workers, and international anti-poverty workers. Then identify the barriers, which could include access to the technology (education, money, literacy, language), how to share information, resources and skills between "have" and "have-not" advocacy communities (e.g. community advocates and advocates in funded agencies, etc.), researching how to provide online resources in languages other than English and how to provide an online space for poor people to communicate and access information via public access sites and web based interactive resources.

Barriers for advocates and activists using PovNet tools have changed over the years. Initially, fear of technology was a big factor. But as advocates saw the use of it as a communications tool, they taught and continue to teach each other. Money for computers and printers is an ongoing problem; as the technology demands higher end equipment, advocates in rural communities with dialup get frustrated with attachments that take up all their dialup time, for example. The anti-poverty work gets harder as governments slash social services; the advocates have fewer resources to do their work. Technology can't help that. But in spite of the difficulties, the network continues to grow, make links with other organizations both in Canada and internationally, and exchange ideas and strategies for making social change.

Solution: 

The most effective online anti-poverty communities are constructed from the bottom up rather than the top down. Their resources are defined and created by advocates and poor people to address the need for online anti-poverty activism as they come up. Electronic resources can provide additional tools but they are activated and made useful by the underlying human and locally based networks where the work of advocacy is actually being done.

Pattern status: 
Released

Sustainability of Weedy Sociality and Distributed Wilderness

Pattern ID: 
53
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
53
maja {and} xinwei kuzmanovic {and} sha
FoAM {and} GaTech
Problem: 

The process of globalization is causing a rapid decrease of diversity in the social, biological and cultural habitats, due to the dominant economic powers, such as proprietary communication technologies and transnational 'life industries'. Physical public spaces, as arenas for a wide range of interaction and social change are losing their importance, as the global marketplace has shifted its locus from the accessible public markets to the dispersed and elusive global networks.

Context: 

In the era of mass homogenization of branded public spaces around the world, we propose a research into the historical examples of sustainable urban spaces that focus on dynamics and diversity in the social, biological and cultural domains. The examples of such public spaces are community gardens and pocket parks, non-institutionalized plaza and street life, travelling fairs and periodic festivals. From these spaces, we learn about ways of conducting an alternative economy based on emergent trans-local actions, rather than accepting the generic, mono-cultural approach of the global free-market.

Discussion: 

We propose two projects: Hubbub and GroWorld as case studies for a pattern that deals with sustaining trans-local diversity in the social, organic and cultural domains. This pattern is based on the assumption that social interaction and exchange can take advantage of the information technologies to augment site-specific urban contexts with a layer of pliant digital media, that can be shared between several localities and communities. By developing (elements of) spaces that can be seen as autonomous, 'alive' entities, the public arenas acquire additional layers of interaction (human-human, human-built space, human-media space...), that can yield unexpected social participation.

Hubbub, a project developed in the Topological Media Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology, is an investigation of how accidental and non-accidental conversations can by catalyzed in urban spaces by means of speech projected onto public surfaces. Hubbub installations may be built into a bench, in a bus stop, a bar, a cafe, a school courtyard, a plaza, a park. As you walk by a Hubbub installation, some of the words you speak will dance in projection across the surfaces according to the energy and prosody of your voice. We'll capitalize on recognition errors to give a playful character to the space. Hubbub's success will be measured by the extent to which strangers who revisit a hubbub space begin to interact with one another socially in ways they otherwise would not. Hubbub is a part of a larger cycle called URBAN EARS, which explores how cities conduct conversations via the architecture of physical and computational matter.

GroWorld is an initiative that started within FoAM in Brussels. It encourages multidisciplinary discussions, bringing different research topics into a common focus: 'growth processes' in (physical and virtual) life. GroWorld is currently developed in three parallel trajectories: ecological, technological and socio-cultural. The trajectories are mutually independent, but complimentary, with their results being integrated into several experiments. The ecological strand involves building a trans-local network of public gardens concerned with preserving local bio-diversity, grown by scientists, landscape architects and neighboring communities. The gardens are sites evolving on their own accord - becoming patches of autonomous organic wilderness in the midst of an urban jungle, grown and molded by their care-takers and temporary dwellers. They are devised both as growing environments in which the visitors can comfortably linger, surrounded by specific local flora, and instruments allowing their players to collaboratively shape and steer the environment's processes of growth, decay and transformation. GroWorld's cultural trajectory comprises artists and designers interested in 'biomimetics', learning from nature to design responsive spaces and objects. More specifically, this strand examines growth processes in audiovisual media, textile design and human computer interaction and applies this research in mixed reality installations, a-life gaming environments and smart textiles. Simultaneously, the technological strand develops responsive media, technologies and interfaces for social interaction, information and entertainment. Its results should be accessible to different communities and should be adaptable for several social, biological and cultural contexts - adaptable to both indoor and outdoor spaces, different climates and cultures.

Both Hubbub and Groworld are phenomenological experiments, that are built upon symbiotic collaboration between different cultures and disciplines. The projects should lead towards manifold applications of developed media and technologies, with a high level of invariance. Metaphorically, these practices can be compared to the horticultural, communal patterns of farming, that can function as an alternative to generic or monocultural approach to global economy.

Integration of cultural, ecological and technological studies will move these projects towards a long term experiment in sustainable creative, technological and sociological development, connecting organizations and individuals from various disciplines and cultures in one common goal: growing an adaptive, sustainable habitat for nature, technology and culture.

Solution: 

Minimize borders and maximize edges. The sustainability of public spaces is dependent on an abundant diversity of social, biological and cultural habitats. Their interrelationships will inevitably grow at the edges of dissimilar environments, such as urban-natural, cultural-scientific, physical-digital. The public spaces of the future should merge the context and the meaning of the local, physical sites with the globally accessible digital media and build trans-local events encouraging interaction between communities on both sides of the digital divide.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
from DIAC-2002 paper, Sustainable Arenas for Weedy Sociality: Distributed Wilderness

Using Collaborative Technologies for Civic Accountability

Pattern ID: 
26
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
26
Tom Tresser
Passionate Strategies
Problem: 

Citizens are attempting to come together in communities around America and the world to solve community problems. At the same time community organizers lack effective technologies to help them bring people together and to assist in their efforts to hold governing bodies accountable and responsive to citizen input. We need more collaboration among citizens and more transparency for our governmental agencies.

Context: 

There are dozens of citizen action organizations working in America to bring forth local people into civic life and to solve social and economic problems, The Industrial Areas Foundation is one such group which has been promoting civic engagement for over 50 years (see www.tresser.com/IAF.htm) The IAF has helped create over 50 local and regional citizen action organizations. These organizations are coalitions of organizations, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, labor unions and community-based groups. Over 2 million families are members of the constituent groups involved in this work. There are other networks supporting civic engagement, such as the Gamaliel Foundation (see

Discussion: 

A technology-enabled approach to the work of these organizations offers a number of intriguing possibilities. Often, these organizations are working in disadvantaged neighborhoods where Internet connection and PC ownership tends to lag behind communities where the residents have more income and have attained higher levels of education. Community organizers who use technology to achieve their goals have the additional opportunity to introduce new tools to their constituents and help them use and master these tools. I am encouraging social and community change practitioners to build technology strategies and tools into their work and to help their allies and citizen-leaders master technology in order to achieve organizing goals.

Solution: 

I propose to create two related enterprises for community technology applications for community organizing, First, a web-based project called "We Are Watching." This is a collaborative tool for allowing teams to monitor government activities and analyze governmental budgets. The online work would be supported by offline training. "We Are Watching" would be template-based and could be customized for any jurisdiction. It would include reporting, webcasts and spreadsheet tools. Citizen teams would be assigned various beats" covering government meetings, attending and exposing fundraising events and interviews. The budget analysis would work like this. Using the Chicago city budget as an example, the lead organizers must first post the budget online as HTML and work with participating organizations to identify and populate a series of working groups assigned to review a specific department. This team is coached by a project volunteer versed in government budgeting and has access to an online help center. The team meets (online) and assigns tasks. Essentially, each team must contact the official in charge of their assigned government unit and interview them about their budget. The team eventually posts their analysis, questions and recommendations on the project page. In this way the entire city budget will be scrutinized and annotated. All teams will be invited to a Peoples Budget Congress where spokespeople for each team will make a brief statement. Additional components of the "We Are Watching" project would be graphical interface databases that would allow users to easily see which groups gave how much money to their elected representatives. The second component of this project would be a hardware and ISP provisioning service that would supply participating organizations with PCs and Internet access at reduced rates. In Chicago, we have an IAF-affiliate, United Power for Action and Justice, which has over 350 member organizations. These member organizations are mostly religious institutions with anywhere from 200 to 2,000 families as congregants. I could imagine a very robust business supplying PCs, access, training and support to all these families.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
from http://www.civiclab.us/

Retreat and Reflection

Pattern ID: 
448
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
136
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In "developed" countries the non-stop barrage of mass media promoting a corporately-branded "message" is never far away. How can people even "hear themselves think" under such conditions? How will smaller groups develop deep research or action plans and how will society as-a-whole practice the "due deliberation" that is necessary for democratic work and progress? Without relief from the insidious assault, how will people learn to appreciate what has value in life? How can they develop a self-identify that is truly theirs?

Context: 

This pattern applies to anybody or any group that is caught in a grind, a seemingly never-ending cycle of activity. Every person and every group and organization has a need to retreat from the machinations of their everyday, often routinized, lives.

Discussion: 

"Beneath the official compulsions of acceleration a cautious interest in greater slowness is beginning to stir. Not as a program, not as a strategy, but rather as a surbversive demand viewing all the glorification of speed as old-fashioned and out of touch with the times. If such experiences accumulate, then the familiar trend might conceivably be reversed and affluence become assoiciated with deceleration." — Wolfgang Sachs, Reinhard Loske, and Manfred Linz, Greening the North

This pattern is about escape, liberation, disengagement — and, necessarily, re-engagement. Neither the name nor its discussion adequately reflects its enormity.

This pattern applies equally to brief escapes from the clutches of mass-media (ever striving to grab our attention), the tyranny of the schedule and the clock (that programs people into vast assembly lines) and to the other habits of thought and action that have been hammered pitilessly into our psyches.

Both an instant of freedom and a year of freedom, of disconnection from forces that are essentially inhuman and unnatural are covered by this pattern. What is not sanctioned by this pattern is permanent retreat. This pattern, the last in our pattern language sequence is intended to help people get in touch with their own feelings, with a different pace, with a reality that isn’t mediated by mass media or by other distractions. It’s intended to help people disengage, recharge and to re-engage in ways that are more lively, more creative, more caring and more wise.

Our species is millions of years old and the universe we inhabit is incomprehensibly vaster in size and in age. The rhythms of our universe, the seasons of the earth and our body likewise seem timeless, they exist still, within what John Trudell calls our "genetic memory." The rhythms of timeless life are not the same as those of television, the Internet, the workaday world.

The practice of cramming tasks into specific, discrete slots of time makes the declaration that the task will take that much time even when a slot with more or less time may be the right amount for the job. Educating people for example, as teachers know, isn’t done best in an assembly line fashion. Some students need more time, some less, and, or course, the type of “lesson” etc. should vary as well.

When life is routinized, when all of one's actions are circumscribed by external events and canned responses, internalized clichés, the ability to change direction and to pursue a different path is minimized. A retreat, a break in the process is necessary; for it is during those times — however brief — when this change can occur.

The digital realm, for social (as well as structural) reasons, has helped promote a culture where “answers” or “solutions” exist. The Internet is good for finding “facts”, (what “Centerville” in the U.S. has the largest populations? Centerville, Iowa.) but can’t “teach” analysis, interpretation, critique, or, “even” common sense. “Reality” even when addressed “artificially” through computer simulations (a proper use of computer when its limitations are sufficiently appreciated) must cope with numerous levels of complexity and interaction.

The (post-?) modern world of the Internet, mass media, "virtual reality," globalization, spectacle, empty abstractions, and real-time data, on the one hand, and SUVs, AIDS, homeless children picking through garbage for food, landless peasants, mega mansions and mega-slums, on the other hand, are both "real." They both exist as perceptable information that exists in our individual and collective minds, which, even if intangible, has tangible implications. Our thoughts, ideas, and memories, no matter how incoherent, paranoid or illogical, play themselves out the "real world:"

The wilderness or other setting relatively unperturbed by humankind is probably the best setting for the practice of this pattern: "Alone in the forest, time is less 'dense,' less filled with information; space is very 'close'; smell and hearing and touch reassert themselves. It is keenly sensual. In a true wilderness we are like that much of the time, even in broad daylight. Alert, careful, literally 'full of care.' Not because of principles or practice, but because of something very old" (Turner, 1989).

The function of this pattern language is to acknowledge and celebrate seeds of life that can be used to generate more life in the face of violence and corruption. Remaining pure or removed, aloof from the sordidness of the world that has developed over the centuries, is not an option. Nor is it necessarily more admirable than retreating into the vast media wastelands, work, mysticism, sports, or drugs. Engagement and retreat together form an eternal cycle that we ignore at our own peril.

Solution: 

People need to set up times to think, to step back and to recharge their batteries. After this respite, one is more likely to be happy, committed, and ready to re-engage once again. Retreat and reflection are necessary counterparts to engagement and both are necessary in the "fierce struggle to create a better world."

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The non-stop barrage of mass media promoting corporate messages is never far away. How can people even hear themselves think under such conditions? Engagement and retreat form an eternal cycle that we ignore at our own peril. People need time to think, to step back and to recharge their batteries. Retreat and Reflection are necessary complements to engagement; both are necessary in the struggle to create a better world.

Pattern status: 
Released

Activist Road Trip

Pattern ID: 
611
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
134
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

It is surprising how little people really experience and learn when they travel. They often seem to be in a hurry to get to a certain place where their friends or relatives live or where the media or other "expert" has told them they should go. Many people would like to see and learn about how people live and the challenges they face, but it’s often difficult to do. Since there is apparently scant profit in trips that would help bridge cultures and encourage understanding, there is little support for it. Also, for most people in the world, travel is costly, is sometimes perceived as dangerous, and there are lots of borders that can block our progress.

Context: 

In an era of globalization, problems are no longer confined to local areas. Also, in an era of heightened fear-mongering, paranoia and suspicions about others, the importance of building bridges individually and in groups can't be stressed enough. One of the best antidotes to propaganda is first-hand knowledge and personal ties to people in different regions.

Discussion: 

Travel offers immeasurable insights if people are receptive to them and have meaningful experiences while on the road. The trouble is, of course, that "it's possible to travel all around the world and not get anywhere at all." The Activist Road Trip pattern is designed to prevent that from happening.

Lori Blewett and I just returned from a trip to Venezuela with twenty-five students. Our ultimate destination was Caracas, Venezuela, one of the three locations of the "polycentric" World Social Forum in 2006, but we visited Barquisemeto and the small hillside village of Sanare. Our tour was conducted by Global Exchange, a non-profit organization located in California, that leads "Reality Tours" to nearly 30 countries including Afghanistan, China, Ireland, Mexico, India, Iran, the Mexican-US border, and Cuba. We visited a number of community centers, health clinics, educational missions, agricultural cooperatives, and housing developments set up by the Chávez government. Also, during the bus drive from Barquisemeto to Caracas our guide briefed us about recent Venezuelan history from the point of view of Chávez supporters as well as detractors. Global Exchangeset up numerous presentations including one from an economics professor (with opposition leanings) who explained some of the particularities of the Venezuelan economy. We also had ample opportunities to converse with people at the forum.

Activist road trips can provide more meaning than standard, non-activist, road trips. But how is the pattern employed? At a basic level, people can simply go on an activist road trip. This means pursuing activist activities — especially learning — while "on the road." The preferred mode of transportation is by foot, bicycle, or car; possibly by bus or train; and probably not by airplane where unscheduled stops and flexible timetables aren't allowed. This is not to suggest that the trip should be haphazard or random — just that serendipity is likely to come into play (and chance favors the prepared mind). Thinking about the trip ahead of time, planning for it, arranging to meet with various people and organizations in advance is very useful — just don't over schedule or otherwise become slave to your plan. A simple way to "ground" the trip is to attend events at the destination and at points along the way. Events could include anything from a mass rally to a simple breakfast with friends of friends. And don't forget to record your impressions during the trip and debrief and discuss upon your return.

People can always elect to go on an Activist Road Trip but the concept itself must be institutionalized to make it easier for people in general to go on these trips and, ideally, to build active networks of people who are interested in similar issues. As with other patterns we concentrate on how to promote this incrementally, with little pieces that organically build towards larger networks or assemblies, rather than through a grand, top-down, plan. Therefore we must build upon the basic components: physical locations, activists (hosts, guest, and guides), information and means of getting from one place to the next. Many “pieces” of this pattern now exist. When, for example, punk rock aficionados, travel they often share information with each other — who’s cool in the next town, whose couch is available, etc. This works—at least to some degree for the punk community, but what if a non-punk (like me?) wants to meet with some punks or if a punk wants to find out more about a non-punk group?

The chore is to help promote processes and ideas to build a thriving alternative to existing approaches to travel that are disconnected and disengaged. Ideally each visit helps to build the network while advancing positive social change. How can the network promote people from different communities getting together? Some of the pieces that we can envision include integrated calendar of events and atlases specifically designed for this type of trip. These atlases would necessarily be dynamic — events as well as the non-profits, infoshops and other host organizations — are often short-lived.

Of course the above discussion suggests that the point of the road trip is to visit activist sites along the way. Another approach is going on a road trip as activists. The Bee Hive Collective that travels throughout Latin American and develops intricate and beautiful murals that illustrate indigenous issues and struggles, and the Miss Rockaway Armada that traveled down the Mississippi River in the summer of 2006 to share art, music, environmentalism and an anarchist perspective with everyone they met, are great examples of this. In both of those cases, the groups essentially brought their activism with them. The ultimate activist road trip in the U.S. would have to be the Freedom Rides in the spring of 1961 where activists traveling on buses from Washington, DC to various towns and cities in the deep South to publicize their fight for civil rights were met with racist violence that was only quelled after federal intervention.

A person implementing this pattern should expect a number of challenges. For example, people working in one activist destination could be overwhelmed by large numbers of people “passing through.” It is incumbent on the traveler to make sure that the host is not taken advantage of. Visitors must be sensitive to their host's situation and aware of their responsibilities as guests. Encounters between visitor and host, important as they are, have several potential complications. Who knows that the “field trip” to, say, a worker's collective is not to a "Potemkin village" that has been carefully "staged" in order to convey certain impressions to the guests, perhaps in a bid for funding. And how do we ensure that the visitors to a favella in Rio De Janeiro, a township in Capetown, or to the South Bronx, are not simply treating what they're witnessing as a spectacle.

The possibility exists that when any destination is made public, in an “atlas,” for example, hostile townspeople might choose to harass the travelers or the host. There could also be other types of vexing side-effects. If, for example, people in the hosting situation were serving food to visitors, the local health department could decide to pay a call on an “illegal dining establishment.” Also, the network is built on social relationships and the ones encountered in an Activist Road Trip are more likely to be dynamic than more established venues.

There are dozens of possible places to visit on an Activist Road Trip: activist organizations, collectives, shelters, migrant camps, small businesses, reservations, encampments, sanctuaries, labor halls, organic farms, conferences, concerts, environmental disasters, prisons, community media centers, barrios, refugee camps, etc. Ideally the travelers could stop at "World Citizen Travel Bureaus" along the way or at "People's Embassies" or, even a "Museum of Civil Society" — if people create them!

And People can add an Activist Road Trip to another trip. Rather than fly in to their destination, dropping in out of the sky as it were, people could explore the region en route to, or returning from, the event to observe first hand the realities that the forum examines. This can even be done within the city itself. One doesn't have to travel very far — physically — to find unexplored regions. The Activist Road Trip can be done in your own region or city.

Note: The photo above is from The Miss Rockaway Armada activist road trip.

Solution: 

References: Bridging the Global Gap; Global Exchange web sites & other literature

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
engagement
Themes: 
Digital Divide
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Travel offers immeasurable insights if people are receptive to them. The trouble is, of course, that it's possible to travel all around the world and not get anywhere at all. The Activist Road Trip pattern is used whenever activism is combined with travel. Activist Road Trips can be long or short; meditative or obstreperous. One doesn't have to physically travel very far to find unexplored regions sometimes in one's own region or city.

Pattern status: 
Released

Peaceful Public Demonstrations

Pattern ID: 
434
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
133
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Governments and large companies often ignore the will or well-being of the people. An election can be stolen a war can be illegitimately launched, an environmental disaster can be caused — all without significant challenge from legistatures, the courts or other designated "guardians of the people."

Context: 

When "normal" dissent is being ignored; when imminent, possibly catastrophic, initiatives are being undertaken such as an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country. In these cases "traditional" ways of registering dissatisfacton aren't appropriate.

Discussion: 

Although crowds of people can be — and are — denigrated by politicans, the media, and other powerful institutions, their existence is somtimes the most profound expression of a population whose rights or sensibilities are being ignored. People must sometimes take to the streets to visibly express their dissatisfaction.

Large public demonstrations are probably the most overt form of protest. It is hard to deny the reality of thousands, tens or hundreds of thousands of people, in the streets peacefully marching, with banners and signs, music, costumes, noisemakers and other devices that have been spontaneously and individually designed. Though often portrayed in the media as marginal and/or dangerous, mass demonstrations (such as those in the Ukraine in December 2004) are generally peaceful and, indeed, suitable for the whole family. As a matter of fact, the presence of families and older people helps ensure that the demonstrations are peaceful. Through their visibility, they also help to legitimize the protest by showing that the concerns aren't limited to one demographic use, youths, for example.

In February, 2003, the world witnessed the largest expression of this pattern in history. People gathered in over 600 ciites in over 40 countries worldwide to protest the invasion of Iraq by the world's only superpower. Although the Bush administration was undeterred by this unprecedented display of disapproval, the idea of peace as an ideal was brought forward by civil society worldwide and held aloft as a universal idea — one that citizens must not allow governments to pursue — or ignore — according to their own calculations and motivations.

Mass peaceful demonstrations don't take place in a vacuum. They need to be tied to broader strategy. This often involves engaging with the media and with established governing (or intermediating) entities. It is often helpful to have a clear set of demands. Finally, although this doesn't always happen, measures like gathering names and contact information can be used to help build a large activist network that persists beyond the duration of the protest itself.

I was dreaming in my dreaming
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleeping it was broken
But my dream it lingered near
In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
That the people / have the power
To redeem / the work of fools
Upon the meek / the graces shower
It’s decreed / the people rule

   -- Patti Smith, "The People Have the Power"

I think that the photograph of the demonstration in Los Angeles (early 2003) against the US invasion of Iraq used above is from a web site that helped promote the worldwide peace demonstrations.

Solution: 

Peaceful, mass public demonstrations both large and small, in combination with other forms of dissent are sometimes necessary.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Although demonstrations are disparaged by politicians and the media their existence is sometimes the deepest expression of those whose rights or sensibilities are being ignored. It is hard to deny the reality of thousands of people in the streets peacefully marching, with banners and signs, music, costumes, and noisemakers. Peaceful Pubic Demonstrations need to be tied to broader strategies that include building activist networks that persist beyond the protest itself.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
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