OWS – ‘We should remember that there are many voices in this movement and as much diversity among the protesters as there is in 99% of our population. These different backgrounds, philosophies, and affiliations can and should come together under a single cause: to end the corporate greed, corruption, and interference that has affected all of us’.
Last week, the movement crossed a threshold. A localized set of swarm events evolved into a distributed swarm network. Swarms can (and usually do) set extrinsic goals. Their primary goal, however, is to sustain the critical mass that holds the network together. As a result, movement activity is focused more on the intrinsic goal of empowering the swarm than any extrinsic goal the movement might hope to achieve. This can make swarms look unfocused from an external point of view. But within the movement, conditions tend to be highly conducive for participation. Swarm movements are intrinsically empowering and thus intrinsically rewarding for participants. Ultimately, participants do not need to look beyond the act of participation for a reason to join the swarm. Swarming is its own reward; the payoff is the empowerment that comes from swarming. Swarms are based in a common sense of potential. What catalyzes a swarm movement is the sense that here, today, a new way of working and living together is possible. Swarms are transformative movements. Insofar as members acknowledge a common sense of identity, it is a transformative identity, a sense of being part of a movement that is changing the world. A swarm movement comes into being as a swarm when a mass collective grasps what it is capable of achieving en masse. Swarms transform our shared sense of the possible. This is what draws people to these movements. It is the key to their unique political power. Swarm movements do not expend their energies by contesting the status quo. They reinvent it. The protesters in Liberty Square and across the US are engaged in a more serious business than contesting dominant institutions. They are knitting together new cognitive maps based on peer-to-peer strategies and open source ethics and reworking politics from below.