It so happens that near the start of the protest, when the police banned megaphones at Zuccotti Park, they obliged demonstrators to come up with an alternative. “Mic checks” became the consensus method of circulating announcements, spread through the crowd by people repeating, phrase by phrase, what a speaker had said to others around them, compelling everyone, as it were, to speak in one voice. It’s like the old game of telephone, and it is painstakingly slow.
“But so is democracy,” as Jay Gaussoin, a 46-year-old unemployed actor and carpenter, put it to me. “We’re so distracted these days, people have forgotten how to focus. But the ‘mic check’ demands not just that we listen to other people’s opinions but that we really hear what they’re saying because we have to repeat their words exactly.
“It requires an architecture of consciousness,” was Mr. Gaussoin’s apt phrase.
Critics of popular social protest dismiss these mic checks as "creepy" and conformist rather than considering the alternative and pragmatic role they play. I believe this criticism is generally specious and willfully ignorant. Here is the people's mic in action:
Again, the entire New York Times piece is excellent because it articulates how public spaces provide opportunities for alternative communities to form. We require common spaces set off and protected from private enterprise for various reasons, but this is not the least of them all.