Human Microphones thwart heavy-handed bans

I’ve always been tempted to play with IABC‘s tagline, “Be Heard.” Do we business communicators really want to be the noise makers and talking heads? Or do we rather want to be the ‘inside voice’ of business strategy?

That’s why when I first began paying attention to the ‘Occupy” movement (OWS and its franchises  Occupy Oakland, Occupy Denver, Occupy Phoenix etc) I argued that we shouldn’t be too hasty to think of them as a fringe movement craving  just to be heard. Hard to pigeon hole, it was too easy to dismiss them because they didn’t fit the model of activist movements. I was reminded of  something innovators have reminded us from time to time. Disruptive ideas do not stem from existing templates. Marshall McLuhan put it well when he observed “I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish.”

Watching OWS evolve, it is interesting to see how they are inventing a  new template for being heard. Make that being taken seriously. They may be leaderless, but have found ways to have their own media team, financial system, and trademark bids. And I don’t mean media in the way we tend to think of it -the kind that come with a lens, a ‘like’ button, or segmented followers.

Much of the media we see being used in these movements are crude hand written signs.

When OWS group figured out that since electronic speakers and microphones are banned in public places (or require special permits) they created what’s known as the ‘Human Microphone’ –basically humans, en mass, repeating something a speaker says so that the sentences get carried across vast spaces of crowds. It sounds like a messy echo, but it is richer than the echo-chamber.

They have also begun another remarkable project in amplification: they are printing their own newspaper. Ok, that’s not new media. But it’s old media in a brand new way. (The fact that it is called, provocatively, the ‘Occupy Wall Street Journal’ may be a brilliant stroke of creativity.) But what really interests me is how they could do it with no real editorial hub, no newsroom, heck, no editor! (CORRECTION: See comment from Jen Sacks, below.)

There’s a livestream, of course, and someone who amounts to a news anchor.

How will this change media? Even if you’re not directly working in the media how this movement works with the groundswell will become one of the most lasting tutorials for anyone wanting to be heard.

3 thoughts on “Human Microphones thwart heavy-handed bans

  1. Hi there, i’m an editor at the Occupied Wall Street Journal, and we don’t publish at the park. We formed separately from the movement and work from an office with an editorial staff.


  2. Pingback: 2011 dominated by people rather than technology «

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