A sit-in is a protest that uses physical space to assert, in a passive way, the right of a person, or persons, to be where they are and to interact, hopefully in a positive, constructive way, with the people they don’t agree with—usually a political body of a sort, be it the government of South Africa, the government of the US or Egypt, or sometimes, large businesses and other interests as the Occupy movement has been doing in their better moments.
I don’t see the current activities of OpenCongress or Wikipedia to be the equivalent of a non-violent protest, though they are certainly non-violent (I doubt any bottle throwing will occur through Firefox or Internet Explorer today, though individuals searching for the text of alternative legislation like the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade" (OPEN) Act (S. 2029) will moan as they go to research the legislation to find their potential allies passively opposing SOPA and PIPA by blocking access to information.
So I won’t go dark. I encourage you to write to your Congressional and Senatorial representatives on this and any other issue you feel passionate about. I have. This legislation is not a slam dunk, so don’t be surprised if some members of Congress or the Senate actually agree with you in their response.
As a marketing note, of course, I wouldn’t have written this had the online protest not occurred. So good on you websites that are blocking themselves today: attention has been drawn. The question is, is it the right kind of attention. Feigning a lack of access is not the same as the real repercussions of rights being eliminated and positive experiences curtailed. A sit-in is a physical act that forces the parties, to at minimum, react to each other. I’m not sure these kind of passive movements will work through a medium where activity is the measure of achievement.
Perhaps it would be better to offer people badges if they write to their representatives, to make the protest an exercise in gamification. Oh, that probably wouldn’t be the right approach either. IT might send a message that we have multiple world views that are increasingly incompatible with antique notions of property and propriety.
Maybe we should be more engaged as citizens of the world so that we don’t always have to wait until the last minute to have our democratic procrastinations registered. I think that may be the answer. Don’t wait. Become actively involved so that your thoughts on what business elected representatives conduct is part of an ongoing dialog with those representatives. Remember that they work for you and it is your job to manage and evaluate their performance. Today we are acting like bad managers caught not looking at an employee’s performance until it is too late for either of them to be graceful about their exit strategy.
If this is the impetus, then take it. Write your notes, blog your blogs and tweet your tweets, but not just today, and not just about SOPA or PIPA or OPEN, but about anything and everything you feel passionate about. We can’t complain about dysfunctional government if we, the electors of that government, aren’t willing to actively manage what we are charged to manage.
Now I hope WordPress is working and this post will make its way to the Net.