The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) / Occupy Everywhere protests are refreshing and invigorating challenge to the current status quo. Technology has already changed the way most people do business and work, its about time that it be used to help change the way the government operates and expose the massive old-school corruption that has followed us all the way into the second decade of the 21st century. As someone who works as a web application software developer, I often wonder in what ways the internet could be used to further social causes, and during a time like now, when so many people are uniting to make their voices heard, it can be hard not to imagine what could be done to help.
There are plenty of online collaboration tools that already exist to help the OWS protests and, undoubtedly, many of the protesters are already taking advantage of these tools to coordinate and communicate. I still feel, however, that there are voids that could be filled that would help further organize the messages behind the protests and aid in more permanently establishing resources to help in enacting long-lasting change. To this end, I don’t think that the protesters need another application to help in mapping protest spots, organizing meetups, or, for that matter, in soliciting donations from well-wishers. The internet is already saturated with applications that can meet these needs.
While I am certainly no expert on the protests, the voids that I can see, from my perspective, are primarily related to media censorship and lack of a coherent, fact-supported, message. The issue of police brutality and corruption, as well as political and corporate corruption also seems to be inextricably linked to OWS. Based on this, I see potential for new web applications that approach the issues of exposing illegal and morally reprehensible activities by authorities, including the police and politicians, in a manner that is a) impossible for them to delete and erase (which is not the case with YouTube, for example, as they can pressure them into doing so), and b) will do so in a fact-based manner so as to, as much as possible, serve as a vehicle for evidence rather than an opionated editorial.
I’d rather save specifics for future discussions and posts, but I do see a lot of potential in integrating a web application with the use of torrents and peer-to-peer networks for hosting actual media content. For example, a web app could be used to track, and add comments about, a video that shows police illegally beating a protester, but the application would not actually host the video, rather its location would be tracked on peer-to-peer networks. The use of p2p could prove vital in thwarting efforts by corrupt authorities who attempt to remove evidence from the public domain.
Anyways, these are just my thoughts, at the moment, I’d love to hear from others who have different perspectives. If you see this and are interested please get in touch with me, I’d be happy to start linking to other relevant blog posts from here as well.