#OccupyWallStreet: a Meme Machine in Real Time

This week The Viral Media Lab tracked the growth of a new social change movement: #OccupyWallStreet. The hashtag meme has been gaining recognition and momentum throughout the twitterverse, on Facebook and in the blogosphere, with breakthrough coverage on mainstream media outlets as well. Increasing numbers of protesters have been gathering in at Liberty Square in Lower Manhattan, with spillovers into Union Square, where young women were caught on video screaming after a being pepper sprayed by the NYPD. The viral video sparked Jon Stewart’s team into parody mode, riffing on the offending officer’s moniker: Tony Bologna:

On Sunday, some 700 protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, bringing even more spotlights to the question: what does #OccupyWallStreet stand for? What does the meme mean?

Here is one take on the meaning of #OccupyWallStreet, in the words of protesters themselves, in a video produced by Media Sanctuary TV, posted today on BoingBoing.com.

Today’s tweet from Good.org?

A number of groups have shown public support by using the #OccupyWallStreet, slogan including 350.org, Working Families and Rebuild the Dream Will this meme take hold to galvanize a crowdsourced echo effect of social change?

We continue to witness the meme machine in action.




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  1. Linda

    As the word “viral” suggests, the Wall Street protests have spread to other cities: Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. with more planned in Detroit, Portland, Minneapolis, Mason City, Mobile, Little Rock, McAllen and Santa Fe. The website, Occupy Together, describes itself as the “unofficial hub” and lists links to protests planned in Europe, Canada, Mexico and Asia. The goals of the protesters may be diverse and not focused under one slogan, but the shared frustration with corporate greed and self serving politicians not addressing their needs has brought them together to raise a louder
    voice.

    Read more in the Oct. 3 New York Times article – http://nyti.ms/nUPQCk
    http://www.occupytogether.org

    • Kathleen

      I’m fascinated that this is occurring right now, in real time….and the buzz of the hive mind grows louder and louder…the message continues to resonate about corporate greed, the jobs crisis and the True Majority (the 99%)…

  2. Emilia

    #occupywallstreet has captivated everyone’s attention. Whether people are for or against the cause they know the slogan and what it represents. Many of my friends don’t even know that Occupy Wall Street was a trending topic on twitter. It has already taken so many forms. That in itself is powerful.

  3. Craig

    Is it too early for a violent overthrow of government? If people keep comparing this movement to the Egypt protest, we’re gonna have to step up our game…

  4. Clarence

    It was great to see Christopher Meloni (Special Victims Unit) break out of his law and order role and take on the role of Tony Baloney in the Daily Show skit satirizing the police reaction to OccupyWallstreet. To be able to produce that with New Yorkers in a less than 36 hour time span points to the unity of entertainment media and their support of the movement.

  5. Arthur

    Personally I dig the fact that there are no specific demands or messages that the movement is promoting. Ordinarily that would seem to require that someone appoints themselves the spokesman, or the organizer, or philosophical creator. I love that after 3 wks, that hasn’t happened. Still, I wonder whether in the long run, the movement will lose momentum & dissipate, even though if anything the opposite seems to be occurring.

    Just thinking aloud: I wonder if there could be some open source mechanism to allow an agenda of memes to develop. i.e., using twitter or vibe (the more secure site akin to twitter that Stephanie tweeted about). Maybe if we were able to ascertain the 20 most commonly described memes in tweets/vibes that had the #occupywallstreet tagline, we could identify the most repeated concepts? In this way, the agenda of the movement could evolve from the bottom up, rather than be dictated from top down.

    The “How are We Feeling” model developed for the Pace show really impressed me, particularly when I saw the piece after seeing the TED talk. They created a crawler that combed blogs for key words, i.e., “feelings,” and then collected the full sentence and any photos that were on the blog post (I think). The same algorithm could be used for other key phrases I would think? i.e., “Corporate,” “Wall Street,” “democracy?” Just some thoughts.


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