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Civil Disobedience in the 21st Century

Organizing Committee:



For this version of Civil disobedience in the 21st Century, the focus will be on addressing an actual strategic challenge facing Occupy Wall Street. While prior workshops have dealt with hypothetical campaigns in the near and long term future, with the continuing success of Occupy Wall Street, we have the opportunity to use this process for strategic planning of an real campaign. Less time will be spent on the initial lecture and more emphasis will be on working in small groups and iterating the simulation.

The workshop will consist of small and large group discussion to establish and understanding of the terrain (architectural, economic, social, etc.) within which the Occupy movement exists. After creating a common description of the terrain, we’ll discuss goals, strategies, and tactics and then break into small groups again based on goals and strategic preferences. In small groups we’ll develop strategic plans and then workshop them as a whole class with one group playing the role of the State. Time permitting, we’ll then be able to discuss the strategies, iterate them, and repeat the role-playing to see how the revised strategies play out.   

As with prior workshops, I am not claiming to be an expert on civil disobedience in general, nor, in this case, the specific history and tactics of Occupy Wall Street. I do, however, have experience designing and facilitating games and simulations, and given how well our past workshops have gone, I’m confident that this one could be of real value to Occupy participants considering future directions for the action. The diverse perspectives and goals within the Occupy movement will fit well with the workshop structure as we’ll be able to simulate how the State will respond to different groups using diverging strategies simultaneously.  - Jay Bachhuber    




Original description 

Civil Disobedience in the 21st Century is a participatory workshop investigating the theory, strategy, tactics and goals of modern non-violent protest. While I’ll be presenting a significant amount of information that may be new to participants, the workshop is an exploration of its topic not an exposition about it. I imagine this as a facilitated think tank guided by particular facts and theories, but ultimately focused on imagining new practical methods of encouraging social change.

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The program will review the logic and tactics of civil disobedience campaigns from the past century in order to understand how methods have changed both in response to and to stay ahead of state counter-protest efforts. Recent and near term advances in technology will also be discussed including the risks and rewards of social networking platforms and mobile technologies. Additionally, we’ll look at the current legal environment for civil disobedience, how protest has changed with the War on Terror, and what legal and economic risks protesters face.

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Bottom line: We’re going to spend some time at the crossroads of “By any means necessary,” and Twitter bombs considering where to go from here. I think it’ll be fun.





tchoi8's picture

Hi all! Last class was very good! It has been a while, Hope you are doing well.
Here is another class TPSNY is putting together with similar interest,however more focus on activist technology.Come by Eyebeam this Sunday!

Hey, just want to up update that the class will be 2 hours, not 3 like last time. It'll be busy, but since this class is more focused on the role play with less of the theory discussion, the shorter time should work fine. Thanks.

Hey folks! I'm excited to be facilitating this class again, and I hope it can be of real value to people working on and around the Occupy movement. Taeyoon mentioned that some participants might be interested in a reading before the class, and while it's not mandatory, I stumbled upon this article from a Harvard Kennedy School magazine that's rather provocative. It's from 6 years ago, but is likely still pretty instructive for the goal of knowing your terrain. Enjoy.

tchoi8's picture

Hi! Jay and I met to prepare for the next class. We've decided 60 Wall st, indoor public space will be better for the class because of it will be easier to have conversation without the noise. We can also start the class at 60 Wall st and head out to the Liberty Plaza as a small group. We are working to shape the class and open for your ideas and suggestions. If you have been an active member of OWS, we'd love to have you involved. Previously, the class began with a slide show lecture for an hour and participatory role-playing game for another hour. Lecture will not be appropriate for the class at OWS, we want to design more active class. Jay will post more detail soon. We are planning for November 5, 2011 at 6:00pm, exact time and site is subject to change.

Id be extremely interested.

for when is the class scheduled? or still open?
location should be liberty plaza;
thanks roland

I personally want to nominate James (aka Jay) to hold this class again, but with a change of location: Wall Street. My bet is that you could have a really robust class right now by going down to there. I just wish I was in NYC.

Thanks for posting!

I had a blast at the class in August. Unfortunately, I'm no longer in New York, so I personally can't participate in a follow-up, but I hope something comes of it. Good luck!

tchoi8's picture

Hi Everyone!
Photo and audio fron the class is (finally) online
Also note there is a class on "Learning from Occupy Wall st" tomorrow
James and I are both back in town, and planning to have another session this fall. Let us know if you are interested!

Hey Everyone, Thanks for coming out last night. It was a great group, discussion, etc. Looking forward to moving this project forward. Here's the link to the powerpoint for everyone who's interested:



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