Iraq antiwar protest and the web

If you were lucky enough to be at the Cluetrain Manifesto discussion at SXSW, you got a fabulous treat of hearing Doc Searls, Heather Armstrong, Henry Copeland, and Brian Clark discussing where we are today against the benchmark of the 95 Thesis that was the CM

Über-cool Brian Clark of IndieWire got asked what might be coming down the pike in 7 years time. He thought we might see things that behviourists say shouldn’t happen, like massively multiplayer games in which 5000 people are acting as a group without leaders in these massively coöperative situations. 

I think we’ve already seen it. But it wasn’t in a game and it was merely enabled in virtual space, transitioning to physical space. It was that historic moment a couple years back when 30 million people agreed a date to show up on the streets all over the world to ask George Bush not to invade Iraq. (With the quirky excpeption of California, which had theirs a week later) I’ve been an activist for decades and what blew me away about that was a silly little logistical thing: the fact that the internet enabled a glocal group decision about what day to do it. It was a completely decentralised decision — no leaders, no major groups took on a central coördinating role, suggestions got thrown out here and there but there was no single steering committee, no top dogs. The entire process was organic in that way that looks like magic, because you’re seeing something inexplicable. 

Anyone who has every tried to get 300 or 3000 or 30,000 people together to show up on the same day with the same message, much less 30 million, know how much work those simple decisions usually are — you have to negotiate between individuals and groups, there’s always stupid niggling about conflicting events and the gradient of messaging and who’s in and who’s out and who won’t be in if somebody else isn’t out. But this unifying passion of opposition just blew that away and within the space of a couple weeks, one or two city listings were up at protest.net, then that became a snowball that started downhill until the concensus was so clear and so big it just kept picking up more cities, more snow, until it became unstoppable. I´d still like to know what happened in California, though: somebody had a wedding and couldn’t cancel?

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