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IC Occupiers: social media vital for movement

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | NOVEMBER 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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Social media present one of the biggest differences between the current Occupy protests and past demonstrations, University of Iowa faculty members told a group of more than 100 Wednesday night.

 

As part of an Occupy Iowa City public forum, journalism Associate Professor Frank Durham and history Professor Shel Stromquist spoke about the similarities and differences between the present-day protests and, for example, movements in the 1960s.

"Facebook is a totally different mechanism than when, for example, Students for a Democratic Society was interviewed by national television networks," said Durham. "The media had a lot to do with misrepresenting and misframing the group. I don't think that's likely to happen this time, because the group is in charge of itself on Facebook and Twitter."

But Stromquist said the movement was similar to past protests in that both implement creative form of expression.

"One of the tools powerless people have is to creatively claim public space for their messages," he said. "Usually, almost always, they're successful in projecting a message in ways by forcing a different kind of discourse and discussion into the public arena, and they're able to redefine public discourse and debate."

Creativity, Stromquist said, is an important part of the way in which the Occupy protests are similar to past movements.

"That's been one of the most profound things," he said. "By taking creative, collective action, by occupying public space, they altered the political discourse. They made visible the invisible 99 percent that have borne the burdens of this depression."

Misty Rebik, a community organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, who "wholeheartedly" supports and is a part of the Occupy movement, said she worked on coordinating the forum for a week and a half.

Rebik agreed with Durham, saying social media give occupiers a chance to better portray and express the movement.

"People have shown their support through messages," she said. "I think it really helps people individually be able to say what they want to say and be heard by whoever's watching at the time. [That's] a little bit different than the past, where you talk to someone [from the press], and then I expect for [the media] to take what I'm going to say and represent me in the way I want to be represented."

Lack of violence toward protesters by city officials is also a way in which the movement differs from protests of the past.

Durham said that while groups from Oakland and Nashville were attacked, he didn't think that was the case for Iowa City occupiers.

"It depends on the local political scene," he said. "It depends on who your police chief is, who your mayor is, and even who your governor is."

But violence, Durham said, is not the most important difference.

"That's not what it's about," he said. "It's been about how a group of citizens and international citizens have gone about stating their concern about a financial system that is threatening the world economy and have gone about expressing concern or the ability of governments to cope with any sense of responsibility."


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