If there's anything 2011 will be remembered for, it's probably going to be the wave of mass protests that reverberated around the world (and is still traveling). I don't think we've seen the end of this. I think this is the leading edge of an on-going pattern that will continue for decades. What's happened is that a kind of behavior common online has jumped a groove and found a place in the "real world".
The politics of Tahrir Square and of Occupy Wall Street share a common heritage, deeply intertwined with online communications networks, and the ethic of the free, consensus-driven community. I think the world of free software and free culture has contributed significantly to this. The decisionmaking process is a direct descendant of the process that happens in free software projects or on Wikipedia. There is an emphasis on process and collective structure and less on individual charismastic leaders. In fact, it's often hard to tell who is the leader, or if there is one. And yet, somehow it still keeps moving.
I don't know if these present movements will stand the test of time, but their method -- that, I think, is here to stay. It remains to be seen how our present power structures will learn to live with that reality.
Photo Credit: [email protected] / CC By 3.0