Breaking it Down in Bobst

Ok, I know I got a little bit too aggressive about defending Bobst-space before – I was mostly writing in jest. Mostly.

What isn’t a joke, or in jest, is the Bobst Study Breakdown – it seems a bunch of folks will be getting down in the library come Thursday night at 8pm, turning the dreary life under the fluorescent lights into a dance party.  Take Back NYU!’s blog points out that the event echoes the 60s Freak-Ins that reclaimed university space for students – I hope the Breakdown signals a start of a new tradition of regular dance parties in our fine red library.

So: this Thursday at 8, remember to take a study break to get down in Bobst.

EDIT: That link I posted earlier broke.  This is most definitely still going down though.

Second EDIT: Check the Twitter.


The Risks and Rewards of Thompson’s New Site


Bill Thompson just opened a new website designed by Blue State Digital, which also designed Barack Obama’s campaign site.

First of all, I’m increasingly inclined to give my qualified support Thompson for mayor – I don’t know if it was pure election-grandstanding, but it seems like every time he  makes a public announcement of some kind, like his workaround of the MTA fare-hike, it’s generally sensible, effective, and conscious of class dynamics in the city (for instance, as Comptroller he got city pension funds to remove their money from companies that privatise formerly public housing in the city).

But that’s beside the point – I think this will be a test case in how well folks other than Obama can use his organizing model in their campaign strategy.  While I trust that Blue State won’t apply the Obama model whole-cloth, many of the central elements of the Obama campaign revolved around him specifically, and might not translate well into other campaigns.  When someone wins, it always makes their system look better than it probably is, and thevalidity of the organizing model will be need to be tested in a vareity of contexts.

Here are some of the risks I see in adopting the Obama model:

-Looking like an Obama hanger-on: to stick in people’s minds, you need to develop a distinctive personality.  The individualist tendancy in American politics asks that politicians be in a way self-made.  Trying to ride the coattails too overtly undermines credibility and might hurt the campaign.

-Social Media can hurt too: trying to mobilize folks via twitter/Facebook/etc. can become a conspicuous display of a lack of support as well.  Having 50 people on a Facebook group demonstrates weakness in a citywide or statewide campaign.  Thompson should be  sure that embracing new media will build support among his target constituencies before over embracing the technology.

-You need a good story: Obama mobilized a series of glittering generalities based on his personal story.  Thompson needs to develop a central story that reduces to a short-worded theme and three key policy proposals to organize people behind the campaign.  One of the clear differences between Obama and Thompson’s site is the lofty quote Obama put on the top of every page.  Thompson doesn’t have the same type of cred, or story to get people together.

How to Cut Down on Bobst Crowding

this building is tooooo crowded.

this building is tooooo crowded.

During finals, I’ve noticed a severe rise in space-related frustration among NYU students.  Suddenly, folks rediscovered work ethic, and are taking it out on the NYU library, which remains packed nearly around the clock.

Here’s some recommendations on how to keep the crunch to a minimum.  The real key is to target imposters – you can generally spot the people who only study in the week before finals by their array of coffees and energy drinks (as if getting strung out on caffeine for a week or so could make up for a semester spent with dull amusements instead of thinking), as well as their self-satisfaction with actually being in the library.  While I don’t believe uppers and smugness are  problems in and of themselves, there are other things which are.

I believe you should be removed from the library during finals week IF:

1. You spend more than 5 minutes on any of the following sites: Facebook, Myspace, Juicy Campus, the Huffington Post.

2. You spend more than one hour away from your idle, power hungry laptop (theft of laptop is another potential punishment, instead of expulsion)

3. You use your papers, jacket, backpack, shoes, food or other personal items to take up the space of 2-3 people at a table.  (lighing said items on fire is a secondary option as well)

4. You go out to lunch/dinner but leave a notebook/book/paper at your chair and expect people to reserve space for you.

5. You remain at your laptop, but spend more time talking with your friends about how much work you have to do than actually doing work.

6. You are not a freshman, but this is your first time setting foot in the library since freshman orientation.

Strategy and the Death of Newspapers

So, the spectacular fall of the Tribune Company is clearly more than the decline of one company – it is the most visible symbol of the tanking print media industry that is swept up in systemic changes that have destroyed business models and jobs nationwide.

For the activist PR person, it also signals a need for innovation.  It’s no longer enough to bang out press releases to the AP and hope for the best; even trying to ‘be the media’ is getting tired since everybody is going to be the media soon – for example, Indymedia centers no longer serve the same function when self publishing software means that anyone can be their own media outside of the framework provided by IMCs.

One of the first casualties will be the decline of ‘publicity’ as such – without big-bore media outlets running the news cycle, the sphere of public discourse will become more fragmented and less accessible.  Organizers and media people will need to think more in depth about their targets, whose support the targets need, and how to influence those supporters via the specific media channels.  I think one point of attack will be via industry conferences, publications and message boards (check, a message board for cops for an example). In a way, attacking via these forums will be like a new office-takeover, targeted at a company and its peers/competitors as a way to put on economic pressure.

Obama the Closet Radical

from menfes quedus flickr

from menfes quedus' flickr

Glen Greenwald reminded me of some of the absurdities of two party politics in America – here’s some recollections. The bizarre dualism established by the two party system sets up some weird rhetorical tricks that really demonstrates how entrenched the political class can get.

“If it’s good enough for ‘them’ it’s good enough for ‘us'” – the positioning of the two parties as somehow equivalent opposites means that they openly borrow each other’s rhetoric based on their minority/majority status.  The open application of each others’ arguments shows how all are driven by pure convenience or self interest.  In the latest election, this weirdly took the form of Democrats embracing McCain’s attacks as truth – I actually had several people call Obama a ‘closet liberal’ in his defence, parroting the GOP talking points that they called lies in other circumstances.   So, whenever coming across arguments like this about Obama’s appointments, remember that they really come down to the right of the governing class to rule, not just for Obama to do as he likes.  The arguments made here and now for Obama’s right to govern will be co-opted come 4 or 8 years, based on the logic of two-party, electoral governance.

Unloading Rage at NYU

logo-copy3It happens to almost all NYU students: the moment when you snap, and unleash your pent up frustration at your university in a torrent of rage.  For some it happens early, and you become a resigned cynic for the course of your education, for some it turns into a desire to take back your university, for others a fake flier defaming John Sexton.

For Neal Shechter of the College Dems, it turns into this explosive post at the College Dems Blog.  Shechter’s post is significant because it comes from an organization firmly in the middle of NYU’s idelogical spectrum (83% of NYU voters voted for Obama), and it latches on to a few key issues for students that NYU:

1. Student Space.  NYU’s Bobst Library was built in 1977, Kimmel opened in 2004 but reduced free study-space for students drastically vs. the old Loeb Center.  Space for general student use continues to shrink.

2. Community.  NYU has a self-perpetuated problem of a meager student-life community.  Space issues and a disengaged faculty keep this problem alive. (though I would suggest to Neal that he investigate the Gallatin School if he’s concerned about contact with faculty)

3. Feeling Overwhelmed – Seriously.  There’s a lot of problems with NYU.  It’s sometimes hard to give a damn when you don’t even know where to start.

The Declining New York City Power Center

Good ol Robert.  Finally put to rest.  from bckspcr

Good ol' Robert. Finally put to rest. from bckspcr

I’m totally fascinated by this too-quick New York Times article on the decline of the New York City power-centers.

The article shows one problem with eliminating term limits – it creates an inability to pick hard political battles like really saving the MTA when constantly in the running for a third or fourth term.  Regardless of the high re-election rate for incumbents, the media attention on a candidate for re-election means they shy away from real battles.

The main point of the article is more interesting.  It shows the dearth of symbolic resources for politicians in the city- Robert Caro’s point at the end that the issue is also one of ‘vision’ points out that no one really has a clear sense of what the city should or does look like.  Obama harnessed the decline of machine politics on a national level by latching on to a fundamental set of American Myths that propelled him to prominence.  In New York, the myths may be just as powerful, but they certainly don’t unite in the same way – glam NYC clashes withcorrupt or mafia New York, intersects with multicultural diverse New York.

The decline of hard-and-fast power centers, and the lack of real and easy symbolic center puts a particular emphasis on grassroots organizing.  Groups like the Working Families Party and sites like ChangeNYC will be the key to shaping the future of the city.  With no quick paths to power or easy levers to pull, the emphasis returns on creating coalitions and organizing disorganized groups with potentially converging interests against the developing rapid changes overtaking the city.