The big non-Apple news this week, of course, has been the spread of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protests started September 17 with a few dozen demonstrators in front of the New York Stock Exchange and have duly extended to other U.S. cities including Los Angeles. But is it America's economic version of Arab Spring, as some are arguing?
Challenging the influence of corporations on government and the widening gap in social and economic inequality, it's finally made the jump from social media to no longer being ignored by mainstream media. No doubt taking a cue from the Facebook and Twitter posts that led to arrests during the UK riots, many protestors have taken to “lesser-known social-media tools in what may have been a kind of "anti-popular social media" strategy,” writes PCMag.com.
While Facebook and Twitter have played their part as mainstream social media channels (more than 450,000 Facebook users have joined Occupy Wall Street pages to date), edgier platforms have risen to the fore.
Protesters have been communicating using Vibe, an app that relays anonymous "Whisper" time-limited messages amongst people within a 160-foot radius to make tracking of flash-mob-style gatherings harder; old school Internet Relay Chat (IRC) for longer-form updates; Livestream, the streaming video platform of choice; and Reddit for link-sharing, a "root for the underdog" style choice, according to PC Mag.
Tumblr has also been popular as the protests spread from New York to Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. and protestors post photos, videos and messages to share with strangers. One Tumblr site, “We Are The 99 Percent,” has been re-blogged thousands of times.
Tumblr “hits a unique sweet spot,” commented Duy Linh Tu, director of Digital Media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, to Discovery News. Part of the appeal is it allows more than 140 characters and great interaction with an audience — currency for the protestors in garnering attention and support.
Change.org founder Ben Rattray understands the appeal. "These tools are actually not that complicated. Social change is less about the tools and more about the applications of those tools," he stated, adding that social media is for "supporting, not supplanting, existing strategies," but can "spark something that wouldn't exist."
Celebrities including Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, Roseanne Barr, Penn Badgley Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins have joined the fray in person and on their social media platforms of choice. Robbins told the Financial Times, “This is what an actual grassroots movement looks like. ... It’s a bit sloppy and disorganized but full of passion.”
Yoko Ono voiced her support on her Twitter feed: “I love #OccupyWallStreet. As John said, ‘One hero cannot do it. Each one of us have to be heroes.’ And you are. Thank you.”
While some see it as a Tea Party movement for the left, others see Occupy Wall Street as a grassroots American movement – one with the social savvy, speed, reach, and passion of the digerati to make itself felt.
"The great thing about Occupy Wall Street is that they have brought the focus of the entire country on the middle class majority," said George Aldro, 62, a member of the United Auto Workers, to USA Today. "We're in it together, and we're in it for the long haul."
Dan Cantor, head of the Working Families Party added, "The labor movement is following the youth of America today and that's a good thing."
And the youth, the digital natives who started the whole thing, are leading with their smartphones as the world watches to see who will emerge as leaders, who clarifies the message, and a very public referendum on what happens now.
With President Obama saying this week he understands the frustrations that led people to take to the streets, Occupy Wall Street can't be ignored by mainstream media, corporate America and lawmakers any more.
And below, how the movement is being seen by Next Media Animation in Taiwan: