The High-Tech Behind Occupy Wall Street’s Low-Tech Message

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If you were part of a network of demonstrators grabbing magazine covers and galvanizing activists across the country, how would you spread the word and keep the momentum building? Twitter? Facebook? Google+?

Try Tumblr, the less-everyday-talked-about but no less powerful microblogging service that’s really a mashup of multiple social networking concepts. Think Twitter without the 140-character straitjacket, Facebook and Google+ without the sketchy privacy issues or “to-friend-or-not-friend” mentality, or WordPress, only more easily adapted to social activities like crowdsourcing. Think text, links, images, audio, video and a simple framework for short-form blogging. Tumblr boasts a total 11.4 billion posts and 31.4 million total blogs to date. The service claims just shy of 39 million posts have gone up (so far) today alone.

(MORE: Tumblr Gets Much, Much Prettier for iPad and iPhone)

And according to Discovery, it’s the platform of choice for the Occupy Wall Street movement, a loosely organized, intentionally leaderless series of demonstrations that began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, but have since spread across the country. The movement’s goals include protesting economic and social disparity as well as the corrupting influence of corporate money on government. Some compare it to the so-called “Arab Spring” that swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and over a dozen other countries this year. “It is remarkable what a little more than 100,000 Americans, showing up and staying awhile have done in three weeks,” writes consumer activist and five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader in a piece about the movement. The group’s official site claims it’s preparing for a “day of action” this Saturday, October 15, in over 950 cities and 82 countries.

And while OWS is using Facebook, Twitter, Livestream and Reddit to get the word out, the movement’s supporters are apparently flocking to Tumblr.

“I am a public school teacher. I have 3 Master’s degrees and no student loan debt. My parents paid for all of my education,” reads a handwritten sign posted yesterday by one OWS supporter on We Are the 99 Percent, a Tumblr blog associated with the OWS movement. “My wife is also a public school teacher: she has a Master’s degree…and more than $80,000 in student loan debt. We are the 1%, and we are the 99%. We are parents of two young girls: let’s make fairness, justice, and equality affordable for all.”

“I am the founder of an independent game development company,” writes another. “When we finally launch our product, we will be drowned out in a flood of blockbuster corporate games and our message will be lost. I am the 99%.”

“1 in 6 Americans in poverty. War costs so far: $1,250,394,341,230,” reads a sign in a black and white picture posted to the site on September 30 and since re-blogged and “liked” 848 times.

And then there’s We are the 1 percent / We stand with the 99 percent, a Tumblr blog (noticed by CBS) that’s just popped up, a place for the “haves” to show solidarity with the “have nots.”

“I was born into wealth and I have so much when others are struggling to survive. Tax me! I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%,” reads a sign held by one protester.

“I inherited $1.5 million when I turned 21,” reads another. “The only things I can’t buy are dignity for all people, a healthy community, and the integrity of Mother Earth’s living systems. I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%.”

“I work on Wall Street,” admits a third. “I am living, breathing affirmation of the fact that where and to whom you are born matter the most. FUCK THAT. I am the 1%, I stand with the 99%.”

Why Tumblr? According to Columbia University journalism professor Duy Linh Tu (via Discovery), because Tumblr “hits a unique sweet spot” (between micro-blogging and standard blogging). “You can get to many more people using visual content,” says Linh Tu, “and that’s where Tumblr’s aesthetics along with collaborative photo-based story-telling blogs such as We are the 99 Percent does a phenomenal job at getting more and more people involved.”

LIST: Tumblr Goes Offline and Other Technology PR Fails

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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