I’m Quinn Norton, and for the next few months I’ll be your guide to the #OccupyWallStreet (#ows) protests as they move across the internet and the world.
I’ll be staying on top of the latest big news for Threat Level as best I can in the #occupations all over America and the world, but more than that I’ll be bringing you analysis of the methods and the meaning of the #occupation. I’ll be traveling to many sites and staying with the protestors. I’ll be talking with the police and city officials, and a few of those being protested.
I’ll see if the protests can survive the change of seasons, and if they can, explain how they manage it. I’ll be reporting from General Assemblies and describing the successes and failures as people try to use urban space, the tools of the network, and each other, to create new ways of running a society as well as reform the old ones. I will tell the stories of the people on the ground and on the net engaging in this long-shot experiment to change everything.
During the same time I’ll cover a separate but not unrelated phenomenon: the rise of Anonymous. I’ll be writing a concise history of the lulzy collective, and will explain their social structure and the patterns of their values. I’ll document their exploits and raids as they arise, but I will never seek to unmask any Anons.
The point of Anonymous isn’t whether or not you know who they are, but that who they are individually doesn’t matter. I’ll be exploring how that works, and how, counterintuitively, this kind of anonymity coupled with an institutional sense of humor have made them players on the global stage. I’ll be visiting irc channels and Scientology raids, political protests and 4chan. I’ll be interviewing anons, those who study them, and those they come into conflict with.
It might seem odd that I’m covering #occupy and Anonymous together, but it’s not. Both #occupy and Anonymous are each examples of a new kind of hybrid entity, one that breaks the boundaries between “real life” and the internet, creatures of the network embodied as citizens in the real world. As one member of The Pirate Bay explained on IRC, “We prefer afk (away from keyboard) to irl (in real life). This is real life.”
Over the next weeks and months, I’ll look to discover just how real it can become.
Just read Norton’s essay on her time embedded in Anonymous. Fascinating, scary and enlightening. Look for it in the July Wired. ~RM