The last three months of 2011 saw the names of hundreds of locations around the world appended to “Occupy” as part of protests. Of these, tens occurred in cities across the United States. The fact that these nationwide protests shared similar characteristics in the absence of a centralized, national leadership hints at the spread of organizational knowledge through media both internal and external to the movement. The aim of this project is thus to investigate the specific roles that media played in the diffusion and adoption of these slogans, forms of organization, and tactics, as well as to identify any reciprocating impacts that the Occupy movement has had on the national “window of discourse.” To these ends, this project will determine the provenance of practices widely employed by Occupy protests in the United States, how and why they spread and were adopted, and any persistent changes in public discourse that occurred as a result.
Research Question(s): What roles did media play in diffusion of slogans, tactics and organizing practices through the Occupy movement and in altering public discourse?
Case Selection: Occupy Movements in the U.S.
Ethnography: Since the Occupy movement was centered around large physical presences, it is necessary to determine practices that occurred “on the ground” (e.g., the “People’s Microphone) and their relationships with the different demographics that made up the movement. This can be done through analysis of prior literature and transcripts of conducted interviews, or by personally conducting interviews with people who were involved.
Literature Review: Prior research already exists on the media and organizational practices that were used by activists in the Occupy movement. This can assist in the important early step of identifying practices that were significant and widely-adopted.
Mainstream/Social Media analysis: Looking at keyword appearances on the front pages of newspapers, tweets using Occupy-related hashtags, and the creation of and activity on relevant Facebook pages can help establish how the movement spread. Looking at the popularity and sentiment surrounding certain terms before and after key points in the movement can also determine potential causation between events and shifts in public discourse.
Media analysis of artifacts created by the Occupy movement: The Occupy movement created many media artifacts, including meeting notes, blogs, posters, and print materials. These can shed light on how practices spread and why they were adopted, especially by looking at which individuals took part in the creation of these artifacts.
LexisNexis/Google Scholar: Can be used for Literature Review and finding relevant news articles
Tweetbinder: Can be used to look at Twitter trends
Google analytics: Can be used to look at search trends
PageOneX: Can be used to look at occurrences of relevant terms on newspapers’ front pages
Facebook API: Can be used to look at when Facebook pages were created, collect data on activity on pages
Word2vec embedding: Can be used to display relationships between and sentiment surrounding key terms
- Develop a general idea and timeline for spread of the Occupy movement in the U.S.: This would involve doing basic research on when protests occurred in different cities, as well as key events. Data on when Facebook pages were created for various protests could also be illuminating.
- Identify significant tactics, media artifacts, and organizing practices: This would likely involve literature review, ethnography, and looking at sources such as meeting minutes.
- Investigate where these characteristics came from and why/how they spread: This would require extensive research into historic uses of tactics, slogans, and organizing methods, as well as an analysis of trends in news/social media. It would also involve looking at media created by the Occupy movement, and those who were involved in creating it.
- Determine the effects of these characteristics on the movement’s timeline, as well as the public discourse: This will tie significant media events back to the movement’s timeline, as well as look at the public discourse surrounding keywords before and after events.