Design’s Role in Occupy & Anti-SOPA/PIPA

Project name

“Viral” Design In Today’s Social Movements

Abstract

While uproar against Congressional legislation is nothing new, it is hard to deny that technology—and the social networks it has enabled—played a significant role in rallying Americans against the Senate’s PIPA and the House’s SOPA “anti-piracy” bills this winter. The Occupy Wall Street movement has taken advantage of the same technological tools as it spreads its message of economic justice. Playing a large part in the dissemination of these two movements’ messages was (and still is) a strong design culture surrounding them. The use of data visualization and information graphics is meant to quickly convey movement framing, hopefully being passed “virally” through both outside observers and movement constituents. A significant difference between these movements, however, is the organization driving them and whom they are meant to target. Anti-SOPA/PIPA was built by the tech lobby to encourage constituents to engage directly with government to defeat a specific “enemy” in the content lobby, whereas Occupy is a horizontal, citizen-built movement which specifically resists engaging with a system it believes to be corrupt or calling out specific enemies. Given this distinction, what are the similarities and differences between the design cultures surrounding the Occupy and anti-PIPA/SOPA movements? Can the differences be attributed to this significant polarity?

Research Question

What are the similarities and differences between the design cultures surrounding the Occupy and anti-PIPA/SOPA movements, especially given the former’s basis as a “citizen” movement and the latter’s origins in industry-lead political lobbying? Can the differences be attributed to this significant distinction?

Cases

The anti-SOPA/PIPA and Occupy movements have been called out for their use of technology in disseminating messaging. They also have (or have had) the attention and/or support of the “creative” community. However, anti-SOPA/PIPA was built by the tech lobby to encourage constituents to engaging directly with government to defeat a specific “enemy” in the content lobby, whereas Occupy is a horizontal, citizen-built movement which specifically resists engagement with a system it believes to be corrupt or calling out specific enemies. Additionally (but quite notably), the anti-SOPA/PIPA movement targeted a specific cause, while Occupy is a much broader social movement. These strong similarities and stark contrasts will make for a compelling comparison.

Research Methods

Interviews with at least one member of the Occupy Design movement, as well as with members of the news media who covered either SOPA, Occupy, or (preferably) both. I’d like to reach out to a member of Congress to understand his or her views on the movements, how the design culture of each one may have impacted that view, and how constituent reaction to each impacted it. I will also be collecting as many data-visualization and info-graphic pieces as possible to analyze from a framing perspective.

Finally, I will use the MassArt library to seek out literature surrounding the use of design in social movements.

Workplan

3/14: Project proposal. Begin collecting examples of data visualization and info-graphics in both movements.

By 3/22: Meet with Greg Wallace, MassArt research librarian. Begin to collect literature on design in social movements. Reach out to interview subjects, secure interviews.

By 4/5: Complete interviews.

By 4/15: Complete first draft.

By 4/28: Complete revised second draft.

By 5/16: Complete final draft & presentation.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s