Occupy University

Kirby Urner
8 min readNov 28, 2018


OU is a meme first and foremost. The secret teaching is we live on (or in) a Global U, meaning Planet Earth, and we’ve occupied it already, so it’s not like we need to storm the gates of anyplace to gain access to our U. This is it.

OU is virtual, meaning it’s everywhere / nowhere. I’ve done something similar with my Global Data Corporation, which sounds very 1% and is just as nebulous. My GDC was developed outside the jurisdiction of Anglo-Euro jurisprudence, and served a Google-like purpose (it predated Google) in terms of sharing global data with World Game players (you and me).

I’m borrowing (stealing, copying, pirating) from the copyleft community, which runs the global economy (see below), the “world domination” meme.

“World domination” was the jokey answer to the question “Why Linux?” (the free open operating system), or “Why GNU?” more generally (GNU as in GNU is Not Unix).

The nerds had rebranded as geeks and geeks were having their revenge, in the form of World Domination (a friendly takeover). Given OU is already the whole planet (OK, OK, the whole solar system), what’s left to take over? We’re already victorious, and now comes the messy business of dealing with inherited karma.

Lawyer-capitalism (LAWCAP, a successor to FINCAP) was at first skeptical of copyleft, not understanding the strategic business concerns such deliberate openness addresses. You need to be professionally paranoid to understand why we won’t trust what we can’t audit.

“Trust but verify” is a slogan in many walks of life, meaning we don’t automatically assume the worst, but no one will think worse of us if we run lots of integrity checks (cross checks, omnitriangulation exercises) looking for lies and disinformation, or just plain old phoniness (hollowness).

However, the verdict changed when it turned out the free layers were galvanizing the new economy. Students needed to dial in, self teach, and when the tools used on the job were pretty much the same as they had in the toy box, then problem solved. Paypal called it Inner Source: apply all the tools and techniques of open source inwardly, in a more proprietary fashion.

A lot of roles go begging, but at least as many get filled, by those lucky enough to have a PWS (personal workspace) where they can concentrate on learning Java or one of those. Remember the LAMP stack?

eCommerce was born of GNU. That’s what we teach in the OU.

Let me put more credentials on the table, as I elaborate.

I’m your tour guide as we explore the syllabus and curriculum.

I’ve already alluded to vast amounts of literature and history. Think of wandering in Rome. “When in Rome…” applies (we want to blend in, so we might look over their shoulders). Everywhere you look is a potential PhD thesis.

I actually did grow up in Rome, literally, although my memories pretty much start in Portland, with some flash backs from the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the basement coal mine especially. The Oregon version (OMSI) was a part of my boyhood religion, along with the Friends meeting.

OMSI in its new location

I worshiped science, but the kind that came with buttons, control panels (APIs) active roles. I loved the exhibits that did things in response to my behaviors.

Munich’s museum is good like that too. I respect what Germanic cultures add to the zeitgeist. I’m not one to disparage Germanic cultures, Austrian either. A lot of the best OU curriculum writing, as well as music, traces to Wittgenstein’s Vienna.

Back in Portland, years later, after a stint in JCNJ (Jersey City), connected by PATH to WTC and midtown Manhattan, and in Greater Manila before that, I teamed up with Food Not Bombs to provide (A) a parking lot for the food delivery carts, pulled by bicycle (B) some storage for food and (C) my own volunteer services as a food harvester, chef, server and planner.

from the museum

I’m already gray haired in this chapter, already a computer programmer.

When Occupy Portland (OPDX) happened, Food Not Bombs (FNB) was game and ready to establish a food tent. Any occupation begins with lines of supply. The generator showed up later, providing lights and a sound stage, for leaders to practice speech making.

The whole three ring circus took awhile to assemble. FNB, somewhat grossed out by the wasteful eating habits of other campers, later moved its tent to a less central location, near the Med tent.

FNB tent with bicycle trailers
map of OPDX

We’re relatively austere in our dietary restrictions and operations, especially when it comes to producing waste. No paper plates or styrofoam cups. We carry our own kits, along with water. We’re urban nomads, travel-ready, pretty much standard in the Global U.

My attitude towards OPDX was that of a talent scout. Lots of skills were on display. We were all learning from one another. I made some new friends. I never lived in the camp, though some of my housemates did. I delivered food to the FNB tent, by bicycle, wearing my black helmet.

Of course this community was not sustainable and needed an exit strategy, often the hardest part. We pulled it off, after the populace staged a huge party in our honor. Check the newspaper accounts and TV news from that time if wanting more perspectives.

Some stragglers stayed behind to get arrested or pepper sprayed, but the generator and main tents were mostly gone by the agreed upon deadline. OPDX lived on to fight another day.

site of future food tent

That’s about when I got started on a more virtual incarnation for OPDX. Sure, we had surrendered the downtown and removed the Hooverville, but that didn’t stop the momentum.

Washington High School on SE 12th Street, near an old work site of mine (Center for Urban Education) had been long abandoned, except for an artist colony, and I decided it could be our Ministry of Education. I could be the minister, without portfolio (whatever that means, it sounded official). I took up this narrative in my blogs.

I colorized my ministry talk with that of a faux or virtual nation, drawing inspiration from the Python community’s then having a “dictator” (Guido) amidst other governing structures (PSF and PEPs).

This was how geeks self-organized, around mock titles and cosplay, and that’s probably why LAWCAP was so tolerant, despite the shared nature of the IP. Copyleft provides free tools anyone can use (good for the bottom line) and geeks tend to be disciplined in ways even a Fascist might understand. The military had contributed to Python, after all, with DARPA giving Guido a grant.

Linus Pauling had gone to Washington High School, which helped me keep telling his story as well. The only one to win two unshared Nobel prizes to date. The Wanderers meet weekly in his boyhood home.

Like most big Portland high schools, WHS had an impressive theater, with a balcony and everything. This was no mean piece of property and the right developer would come along and turn it into an event center soon enough.

Google Earth view of abandoned WHS

One of the first public events: a movie with the director present, narrating to live music from a famous band, about Buckminster Fuller.

OPDX was proud. Everything was going according to plan.

From such humble beginnings, came our global university. That’s but one narrative among many, tracing to Portland origins, but that’s appropriate, as Portland was the staging ground for a famous march on Washington DC.

WW1 vets were experiencing the onrush of the Great Depression, while Congress had seen fit to delay their bonuses until such time as when many would conveniently have died, thereby becoming ineligible for payment.

A big part of rushing to war is hoping to avoid paying its costs. If the last war is proving too expensive, start a new one. LAWCAP understands this logic, even though its illogical.

Those still living, dissatisfied with this selfish arrangement, gathered in the same elk statue park where Occupy happened. They called themselves the Bonus Army.

Having fought for their country, they wished to enjoy the fruits of victory. General MacArthur would later trash their shanty town in DC, the paradigm coward and egomaniac.

During my stint “back east” as many Americans say, I attended Princeton University and haunted Firestone library. I’d been a library browser since Manila at least and thrived in an open stack environment.

A lot of libraries won’t let people just wander in the collection. Princeton suffered from theft as a result of its generosity. No doubt this bout of browsing got me dreaming of hypertext. That dream was strong in the zeitgeist back then. Lots of thinkers wanted hypertext.

The genius of Tim Berners-Lee was to turn these dreams into an internet protocol (HTTP).

That such an esoteric dream would come true was highly encouraging. The zeitgeist seemed real. At Princeton, my professors had gone on about “the noosphere” (same idea), and Synergetics (post Princeton) mentioned the Holy Ghost (geist).

I also dreamed of Youtube, when working at McGraw-Hill as a full time consultant. I submitted my proposal for The Videogrammatron to the Children’s Television Workshop. I became enamored with Sesame Street (CTW’s flagship TV show) while in high school in the Philippines.

I saw the wisdom behind short video clips, oft recycled, hammering on concepts here and there, but switching often. My idea of “hypertoons” grew up in that same matrix.

The OU shares a lot of content through what I call “reveries” — picture dreamy LCD displays, like aquariums, wandering through content in both a random and repeating manner, like Youtube with autoplay turned on, but with more seamless segues.

That’s a hypertoon in a nutshell: partially overlapping scenarios, network edges through key frame nodes (switch points). LCDs (HDTVs) in coffee shops (other beverages also served, some with entheogenic ingredients depending on campus rules).

So there you have it. You may have seen our “reveries” already and wondered about the thinking behind them. We use them to promulgate Synergetics and its Concentric Hierarchy of Polyhedrons (CHoP), as these make for great television. I’ve called this CHoP “the Sesame Street” of Synergetics, given its easy to memorize volumes table. You’ll find more of our syllabus writings here on Medium.



Kirby Urner