What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Real Occupy Think Tank

So Friday I met with a Think Tanker about moving things to the next level.  We have been thinking for months (really since its inception for me) about creating a true research institution surrounding the work and issues we are focusing on at Occupy.  We met about trying to make this happen.  There are three of us that may really be interested in working on it.  We don't really have plans as much as guidelines.  But it is a good thing to move forward with.  The general concept was free-written as such:

We would structure this research institute under different auspices and governance structures than found in typical institutions.  We would incorporate a horizontal decision making structure into a managerial structure sharing input throughout ll levels of the institute and its research process.  Focusing on horizontal ideals while still working to maximize efficiency and expertise.  The research process would be facilitated by trained intellectuals doing research and working to guide projects on specific areas of interest and expertise.  These individuals would work within their main areas of inquiry or subject matter, but would largely be responsible for managing information and what would mostly be crowd sourced research supplemented/done by the general public.  The teams would be open and charged with briding public participation in reaserch and ideas while working with the scientifically valid research methods.  The idea would create a think tank that was far broader than a few PhD's sitting in stuffy rooms reading books, but for qualified intellectuals to act as  facilitators and discussion/project leaders aiming at producing a research process that includes and brings to the fore the public's voices and ideas both in terms of subjects and as researchers. 

From a methodological perspective, the research process would include at least four areas of data collection:
  1. The general public on the ground. Open discussions, town hall style roundtables, community lead research/questions. This would take the form of individuals going out into public/private spaces (in cooperation with local community groups), asking questions, and engaging in public dialog with citizens and local communities.
  2. An expansive web presence that would act as an idea/information conduit and repository that would open information and research to the public and researchers.
  3. There would still be standard academic styled research and discourse.
  4. Survey or phone based sampling to try to include everyday citizens into the dialog. This could be part of number 1.
The key component to this think tank would be a foundation based on open/crowd sourcing of the research, and teams of researchers that could be anyone and everyone from throughout the process.  At every level of society you can have a conversation with people with profound ideas and initiative; from CEO's to carpenters, there is intellect everywhere.  All the researching, writing, editing, and decision making would be done by and for us - the people.  With a large focus on engaging the general public both in the process of learning and engaging with their voices while coming to outcomes, options, and policy suggestions.  We believe that this will put individuals and groups that have traditionally been on the periphery, or marginalized throughout the whole process of intellectual creation, at the forefront of understanding and recreating their own social, political, and economic outcomes.  

The research focus itself would be within Occupy's principles and interests of political, economic, and social justice.  The research would however not inherently be done on the Occupy movement itself, but focused on doing research that viewed the world through the prism of an occupied lens and used this as its analytical and thematic point of departure. The institute would be designed to become the nexus for the ideas, research, and actions surrounding and produced by the Occupy movement.

Beaten and Bruised

So as I wrote about a bit ago, I was hit by a car on my bicycle a bit over a week ago.  It was a pretty rough experience and one that still leaves my back in a decent amount of pain right now.  I didn't get medical treatment at the time though because of insurance and my own pain tolerance/aloofness.  It happened on a Thursday, and while I seemed ok right after, by Sunday when I woke up I decided to head up to Bellevue and get checked out.  I just wanted to confirm that I was ok. 

It was an all day ordeal.  I biked up there from Bed-Stuy (yes, I know, shhhh....) and got there around 11:30 or so.  I was there till about 5 getting checked out.  They were far more concerned with my neck than my back or hip.  I ended up in a neck brace and with a CaT scan of it.  X-Rays of my lower back and pelvis.  Luckily everything checked out and while still in pain I headed downtown towards Occupy's daily #S17 events.   

I was tired and starving.  I hadn't eat since I left that morning.  Figured I'd eat my lunch when I got downtown.  My head was racing.  Moments, events, thoughts on cycling, my body, and how I feel like I'm more of an educator on a bicycle than a cyclist.  I mean I spend the whole time teaching New Yorkers about the laws involving bicyclists.  They are so oblivious....  and then WAM!!!!  IT HAPPENS AGAIN!!!  I wasn't a block past the same exact spot as last time.  The same bike lane, the same stuff.  Woman pulled out in front of me not looking or seeing me and hit the back of my bike.  The bike shimmied and flew out of control.  I somehow jumped off of it and managed to land on my feet (on a positive note I feel like this may have been one of my most impressive athletic feats, and hopefully a pleasure for someone to watch!  But as it was I did something to my knee.  It's been sore since, a little loose even.  I of course didn't really pay much attention to it at the time.  I'd just spent the whole day in the hospital, I was famished, and I couldn't stomach waiting another hour for the cops.  So I spoke with the young lady that hit me, took her information and agreed that she would get my bike fixed.  Looking back on it, it wasn't so smart.  I should have gotten checked out and called the police, but I decided to do things as they should be.  She and I would trust each other and work together.  She didn't need her insurance to go up, and I just wanted my bike fixed and to eat.  I don't think I wanted to deal with the cops again either!

Anyway, is what it is.  My knee is still not right, but I'm working it back into shape.  I got the bike fixed and the young lady responded to my text about it.  I should head up to her work this week and sort it out.  I got her the lowest price I could and feel good about it all.  Like there is trust and honesty in this world.  We'll see though.  I haven't gotten reimbursed yet.  But I think I will.  Accidents happen, and integrity may have surrounded this one.  It does still exist you know!!   ;)

Occupying our Airwaves

So Wednesday we started what will hopefully be a wonderful pathway forward for the Occupy Think Tank, and one I must admit I'm pretty excited about as well.  There is a pretty solid chance that we will be filling a vacant slot on the 6:30-7pm Occupy Wall St. Radio show every Wednesday on wbai.org, 99.5 fm in nyc.  Here is a link to the show from Wednesday, and below you can see a proposal that I wrote a few months back but that was not capitalized upon until just this week.

WBAI Radio, Occupy Wall St. Radio

The Occupy Wall St. People's Think Tank was on occupy Wall St. Radio Friday, February 17th for one hour doing a version of the discussion forum that sprung up in Zucotti Park in the Fall, and has been expanding throughout the region, country, and world since. We would like to formally propose a structured think tank radio program that could appear regularly on WBAI's Occupy Wall St. Radio show or elsewhere. The concept would be as follows:

  • One facilitator guiding the discussion using Occupy's facilitation techniques based on horizontality and equality of voices. The facilitators would also not always be the same so as to get a mix of genders, races, creeds, etc.
  • Ten plus studio participants. A usual OWS think tank has one recording device that is passed around similarly to a speaking stick. In the radio studios at WBAI there were 5-6 microphones, it would be very easy to have at minimum 2 people to a microphone as the facilitation technique would actually be aided by this method. The whole point of Occupy's facilitated dialog is to allow for patience and only one voice speaking at one time. Thus, people addressed to speak step up or pull the mic close to them. Our conversations are not about everyone always having a mic and being able to jump in, but waiting and holding collective, pensive, and pointed conversations.
  • Telephone participants would buttressed the studio group. A phone call could be the equivalent of going on “stack”. The called could then be there for their part of the dialog, perhaps be allowed a direct response after others, and then hang up. This would depend on logistics and the number of phone lines as well.

  • The topics could range from all over the spectrum of economic and social justice, the occupy movement, global issues, etc, and would be set in advance (though we have mostly decided on the spot in public).

  • The facilitation technique would follow “stack” and allow direct responses, but would be limited to the specific facilitator's discretion and methodology. Some limit direct responses in length, some in number, some don't use them much at all. This can also be determined with your production staff. Clarifying questions, points of factual information, etc. will all go through the facilitator and be explained prior and online. Individuals must wait until thoughts are complete and facilitation calls upon them, rather than jumping in when people pause.
  • The facilitators themselves would bring diversity to the show. One day a show facilitated by a white male graduate student on the future of the occupy movement, and the next show could be facilitated by an African-American man from the Bronx on issues of school pushout, and the next by a women leading a discussion on energy dependency and war. The beauty of this type of facilitated environment, is that it is about inclusion and leadership for and by everyone.

  • With the conversation set in advance it could be advertised around the occupy movement in order to get maximum participation both in studio and via phone. This could also be promoted on WBAI and such to have as many different voices as possible. There could be an online sign up at WBAI and Occupy's pages to be in the studio shows. As the show would be about inclusiveness, openness to everyone, and horizontal voices, so too would the ability to sign up.


This type of interaction should be very different from typical media dialog, and will in many ways be a learning tool for the audience on how to communicate with more patience. Many people describe the practice of being involved with occupy facilitation and the think tank as transformative. It teaches them to wait, to listen, and to allow for both themselves and others to formulate and carry full thoughts through to their conclusion.

We envision this show being able to air once a week for one hour. It would seem appropriate for it to be on Occupy Wall St. Radio, but could just as easily be on at a different time. We have a team of facilitators that could host the show. We would also help to fill the preset studio seats and promote real time phone participation through our channels.