Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flash! Mobs in the Age of Mobile Connectivity

What i found most interesting about the flash mobs article was the participation and communication from people using mobile technology as their mode of communication. Judith Nicholson makes the claim that this flash mobbing was enhanced by the use of mobile phones and how this was shaped by participators who began using their mobile technologies for more than just private use and began using them for collective communications through text messaging. She calls this "mobile mass communication" and this form of participation that allowed one person to communicate with many changed the way these people organized and participated in this movement. I also found it interesting in the section target mobbing that Nicholson quotes McClelland: “Officials always tried to prove the existence of some form of criminal conspiracy in the heart of the mob, to show that something important enough to justify their fears was going on. These were fears of a very generalized kind, fears of order, or for the world as we know it, threatened by subversion.” I think that by pointing this out Nicholson makes it clear how important this movement was not only for the participants but for the new media community, how they participated and communicated. It is interesting that although there were no violence that the flash mobs were being held under high surveillance as it became more and more popular. Lastly i thought the part on public performing was very interesting because it points out the parallel to art like surrealism and dadaism. She furthers this claim by saying "If mobile mass communication was generated in response to social, political, economic and technological conditions of the late 1990s, can flash mobbing, which was also called ‘guerilla art’ (Merritt, 2004) and ‘swarming art’ (Morrison, 2003), be considered a response to the social and political conditions of 2003, particularly conditions that existed in New York where the trend was started?"This shows how the use of mobile texting, influenced mobbing and public performance and protesting that made flash mobbing so significant and how continues to be meaningful in different political, cultural, and intellectual medias.


Emily B said...

Nicholson seems to constantly reiterate the aura of fear that surrounds flash mobbing. However, she definitely attempts to create a stigma around the idea of political control. I think that such huge mobs of people should be held under at least a minimum amount of surveillance. It's difficult to ascertain whether there will be violent tendencies within a mob environment. As Lucy pointed out, flash mobbing is an extremely significant phenomena - therefore, we must be cautious about it's use. Nicholson quotes Foucault about the fact that "courts encouraged mobs to gather and participate in the ‘ceremony of punishment' that surrounded the public torture or execution of convicted individuals." Such acts could be recreated with the use of flash mobbing. Though proponents may believe the flash mob to be an institution that cannot be infiltrated for commercial means, it would be simple for government officials, or those with a nefarious purpose to utilize the tools at hand to create their own, violent flash mob. Therefore, while I agree that flash mobbing is an influential social phenomena, I think we should be cautious of its use.

Caroline said...

Good point, Emily. Flash-mobbing brings "mob mentality" to mind, in which people do things they wouldn't normally do if they were alone instead of in a group.

loda said...

I agree with Emily. It is not so much that they are actively searching for ways to find or pin criminal elements to these unusual events. Instead its the potential for crime and disruption that this phenomena brings.

Amanda said...

Nicholson's article states that these flash mobs are not associated with violence, however I agree that mobs should have some surveillance just because there is a chance something bad will happen. People are crazy these days but as long as they stay void of violent acts I think they are a good way to entertain people and make them feel part of a group as i mentioned in another comment.

In regards to the government's involvement, Nold states "when it suits the state... the visibility of the crowd, is used to reinforce its authority and yet when the crowd is perceived as threatening, it is denounced as the vocal minority." I think this is a clever point. The government spins these mobs to benefit themselves. Any group of people joining together makes them nervous so they will either break them up showing their power or try to convince others that they are not credible. It's an interesting subject.

*kt* said...

I disagree with Emily. Although Nicholson does point out the fears that surround flash mobbing, she doesn't necessarily justify those fears as valid. The crux of her article was about disproving those critics of flash mobbing who said it was/could be violent and disruptive. Nicholson provides and examines both viewpoints of flash mobbing to strengthen her argument that these types of gatherings are not meant to be violent or hateful. To further clarify to the reader the actual meaning of a "flash mob", Nicholson turns to the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "a public gathering of complete strangers, organized via internet or mobile phone, who perform a pointless act and then disperse again". Within that definition there is not even a hint of aggression or malign intent. The term "Flash Mob" was coined by Sean Savage (cheesebikini blog)which he derived from "smart mob"--a group of people who gather for social or political purposes. Now the latter could stir up some controversy because there is a specific social/political agenda for those gathering. I can see why people might be hesitant to embrace such gatherings, but a Flash Mob is the antithesis of a smart mob therefore violence has never been/ will never be an aim of the gathering persons. If a group of un-related strangers DO gather and commit some heinous criminal act, then it is not a Flash mob.
This society needs to allow for some spontaneity, everything cannot be monitored and watched over. That is probably why flash mobs were created in the first place. There is no political agenda or specific aim for these groups, just a way for individuals to feel empowered and feel like they have an impact in what goes on in the world. That may sound like a stretch, but think about it....
The simple fact that flash mobs don't have an appointed leader makes the idea seem so rebellious. In a world full of structure, rules, and regulations I think that this is something people should embrace with open arms instead of thinking about "what if things get out of hand". Things are already out of hand all over the world!! Does it really make a difference whether a group of a couple hundred people get on their cell-phones in a furniture store and yell "YES YES" in unison?!
I didn't think so.
It's all a game of manipulation-- "when it suits the state... the visibility of the crowd, is used to reinforce its authority and yet when the crowd is perceived as threatening, it is denounced as the vocal minority."
Political authority figures and the media just want to add flash mobs into their personal arsenal of "who's-to-blame-for-what" and then forget about them when the topics not hot.