Life, Liberty and Political Protest

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The Republican National Party convention has come and gone in New York. While much of the media coverage was devoted to the usual political posturing less attention was paid to the psy-ops between the party and its opponents on the street.The city of New York went into overdrive arresting protestors. A Manhattan judge ordered

the immediate release of 500 protestors some of whom had been held for three days without charge. Around 2,000 protesters had been arrested in total. Forget the 1960s, the protests were the biggest staged at a US political convention ever (almost three times as many as the famous 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago). Issues of importance to the protestors included the way in which the war on terror was been conducted, in memory of 9/11 relatives dissatified with the government, gay rights, AIDS funding as well as the treatment of the poorest members of society.In a wrap up report of the convention Chicago Tribune journalist Charlie Madigan compared the Republicans to the Nazis (see

here)Like a modern military campaign, the protest was supported by a complex ‘command and control’ communications infrastructure, the protests relied on sophisticated communications technology to direct their actions, the protests were more successful than in those done by previous generations. Protests were by text messages on their cell phones, using the service to establish meeting points to create a ‘swarm’ rather like a flash mob, warn about police presence and provide an real-time protest update.

“Need protesters at 38th and Park Ave, Bush arriving any sec!” came one message on Thursday morning from a church where the president was to attend a prayer service. Foremost amongst the mobile infrastructure was

Here’s their post-convention update to members:

Well, the RNC has come and gone. Many thanks to everyone who used txtmob, and special thanks to those who helped keep it up and running. In particular, props to our partners in New York: the NYC Comms Collective, the A31 collective, Times Up! NY,, Openflows, City College radicals, and the 12th Street church crew. Special shout-out to for letting us piggyback on their service when T-Mobile tried to shut us down.

If you have a minute, it would be extremely helpful if you would provide some feedback on your experience with txtmob. We’d like to know how you used txtmob – for example, are you an RNC protester? a medic? a reporter? If possible, let us know which groups you subscribed to, whether you posted or only received messages, and how useful you found the service. We’d particularly love to hear any stories you might want to share about your experiences as well – for example, was there something specific that txtmob helped you do? Or a time that txtmob was especially memorable? Finally, we’d like to know about ways that txtmob can be improved.

Needless to say, your responses will be kept in the strictest confidence.

This is a continuing project. After a brief and much-needed vacation, we will begin packaging the code for public release. We’ll also start on the next revision, which will include many new features and will support international messaging. If you’re interested in helping with these efforts, please get in touch.

We’re also pleased to announce our friend Tad Hirsch has agreed to coordinate further development efforts. Tad is a Research Assistant at MIT’s Media Lab and a longtime associate of the Institute for Applied Autonomy. Effective immediately, you can reach Tad at admin at

Finally, a note for T-Mobile customers: As many of you are aware, T-Mobile blocked TXTmob messages during a portion of the RNC. While we won’t speculate on the reasons for this action, it would be extremely helpful if the hundreds of customers who were unable to receive TXTMob messages called T-Mobile to complain. Be sure to explain that TXTMob is an opt-in service that you have chosen to join, and to encourage their representatives to contact admin at if they have any questions.

Again, thanks for all the support. This has been an exciting project and its only just begun!


John Henry / Institute for Applied Autonomy