Yes. The Sunflower Movement was in March 2014. Around that time already the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring, the work from others organizers had already taken place, and researchers like Manuel Castells had already wrote analyses about them.
There was a lot of research. Castells wrote a book, «Communication Power» and then «Networks of Outrage and Hope», to analyze the dynamics of the occupy movements. That was my interest at the time, and I translated a part of that book a few months before the Sunflower movement happened.
In a sense, there was a opportunity for us to see if we overlay Social Computing on top of an Occupy Movement, not just with existing systems — such as Twitter, or Facebook — which are systems not specifically designed for occupy. In other countries, they were mostly repurposing things they already used, such as Instagram, Flickr, or other services. These were not designed for Occupy; they were repurposed for Occupy
For the Sunflower Movement, it was a way for us to test if it’s possible to design what Clay Shirky calls “situational applications”, that is to say to adjust the code in real time, according to the needs of Occupy, and see how that will improve, or change the power of the demonstration.
The background was this Around that time, Taiwan parliament has passed a very controversial pact, a trade agreement with Mainland China, and the parliament actually did not have a debate on it. Instead, it just declares it is “not a foreign trade agreement.”
For example, when we have trade agreements with New Zealand, or some other countries, the parliament is required to have a full procedure, starting with public hearing, and then a number of debates. There is a system about it. But because Mainland China is constitutionally considered a part of Taiwan, it was called a “domestic” issue, and the parliament decided that they cannot do anything about it, that it’s up for the administration to decide.
Now, of course this violates pretty much what everybody in Taiwan thinks about our relationship with Mainland China. However, there’s a lot of constitutional baggage from the ruling party, the Nationalist Party, who controlled the majority of the parliament, who decided to just pass it as a domestic issue.
There was no other recourse of stopping the bill from being passed. So a bunch of students just climbed over the wall, and occupied the parliament, and stopped this from happening. At that time, I was around the legislative building, using my phone as the uplink connection, with my skills to support the real time broadcast of the protest on the internet.
I did not know actually they’re going to occupy. I thought it’s just a huge demonstration for a night, which I’ll be able to support. Then many g0v people joined in the same way — we supplied the communication equipment, and skills to the civil society.
When they actually occupied the parliament building, there was a lot of socialdynamic issues to solve, like how rumors would spread; like how do we manage the logistics — of the supplies, the food, the drinking water, of the demonstrations?
All this is actually very easily imagined as a logistical problem, from an Internet view, as “bigraph” systems. This is what we did. We built, on the Internet, representations of whatever that’s happening around occupy areas, and then we crowd-source everybody with a phone to contribute images, or with a laptop to type in whatever they have seen around the occupied area.
We also set up a projector, outside of walls of the parliament, which plays in real time what is happening in the occupied area. Later on, I worked with the cable-power-radio team on the field, providing the ICT experts with equipments to connect all the occupy areas — and the external streets — into a local network. We also had a fiber-optic connection to the Internet.
With this, even though it’s technically three or four different sites of occupation, it’s linked as an Intranet, and also on Internet, as a single space where everybody can see everybody on each others’ screens.
Then, for the next 20 days, a very neutral, deliberative, matter-of-fact discussion of the trade service agreement took place. The way it was felt was that, since the legislature refused to deliberate, people occupied the space could be a real demonstration — like a “demo version” of democracy — on how we can actually talk about things like this.
I think that was a huge success, with lots of people watching from the live-stream, and contributed to transcripts, which were translated into 12 different languages in real time.