Tomorrow I’ll be arriving in New York where I’ll be staying for a few days. I’ll be speaking at (and attending) a cool conference on the future of digital culture and education called Mobility Shifts at The New School. (My talk is Saturday at 2:30 pm, Wollman Hall, Eugene Lang Building 65 West 11th St., 5th floor, in case you’d like to attend.)
But obviously there is another more conflicted, complex and compelling educational context available in New York at present. Specifically I mean the Occupying of Wall Street by ‘the other 99%’. And so even as I’ve tried to prepare my Mobility Shifts talk (I prefer to improvise, actually) I’ve been wondering how best to contribute to this other event, the anarchic one with the catalytic and transformative potential.
I’ve been writing about this protest more or less since it started, noting especially how it fulfills my criteria for what I call ‘interactivism‘, i.e. a constructive and symbiotic bridging of oral and digital tools for potent social ends, but also how this protest is in my opinion missing the mark in promoting essentially literate solutions to post-literate problems.
So the question I’ve been pondering is: how best can I contribute constructively to this movement while I am in New York?
It’s a tough one. Obviously just being there is a start. So maybe I’ll spend a night or two sleeping at Zuccaro Park in solidarity. But the whole idea behind Interactivism is to leverage real-world experiences into the digital world so they nurture more relationships and meaning remotely, which in turn generate more local actions and more collective momentum. Which is of course exactly what has happened with the Occupy Wall Street protests. So in addition to being there I want to 1) increase the depth and scope of the real-world events and 2) use those encounters to wide-ranging online engagement.
And here’s how I propose to do it: public gifting.
I am a big advocate of public gifting. It is a deep and ancient oral community-building tool that embodies everything that Wall Street does not: generosity, mutuality, integrity. And it is also popular in digital culture, where it is known as open source, shareware, file-sharing, etc. If you have been following my blog you will know that I have been giving away copies of a Gift Edition of my new book, called You Are Your Media (and whose subject is these very issues I am discussing now, such as the essential and potent commonality between oral and digital cultures.)
And so that is what I will do on Wall Street. I will stage a public gifting ceremony where I present copies of my book to people who offer to give away the most valuable gifts in return. Not to me, but to whomever they want, preferably someone far away. And I will write about their gifts on this blog – what it is, who they gave it to and why. And hopefully this small action will yield some unpredictable yet meaningful consequences that will add to the social value of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Oh, and I’ll probably riff a few poems along the way each time, just to add to the fun of it all, and to get people’s attention.
It will be a public gifting and a public ‘giving’ auction all at once. Who will give away the most? You? You can if you like. Just upload your proposed gift to this website and I’ll toss it into the mix. Remember, it’s not a gift to me, it’s a gift to someone – or something – else. And it could be anything. It’s up to you. So this is one way that you too, even if you can’t be in New York, can still occupy Wall Street. You can occupy it with generosity, hope, trust, meaning, caring and fun.
So stick around and see how this interactivist experiment goes. Or join in and make it a success yourself! In person or online.
Occupy Wall Street! And Give!