Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Sensational Appeal of Flash Mobs

People love a sensation.  If you look at Britney Spears or the death of Anna Nicole Smith, anything that is sensational gets loads of attention from the media.  Personally, my first impression of flash mobbing was that it was merely to cause a sensation.  And I think that it is for that reason that people appeal to the idea.  And while flash mobbing can be used for no foreseeable end, or even used for a negative end, I think it has tremendous power to make a positive statement or evoke positive change as it did with People Power II.  

Although not planned through the use of email and text messages, for some reason flash mobbing reminds me of the sit ins of MLK Jr's time in that it can be a nonviolent act with the potential and intent to create positive change.  Sensational events cause attention to be paid.  And while I don't believe that this attention should be devoted so heavily to Britney and Anna, I believe that if used wisely, it is positively using our advanced technology for good.  And in doing so, implements power in numbers to create "a catalyst and site of actual and symbolic struggle."


Thrasymachus said...

Flash-mobbing is strange! I think an equally important catalyst to note, as to why these people get together so randomly and, seemingly, without purpose, is simple boredom! These people probably surf the blogs just looking for something to do. With an excuse to get out and do something relatively harmless, they do get out.

More important to me than the actual act of 'flash-mobbing' is the organizational framework provided by internet culture. Although, as you said, sit-ins during the civil rights movement did occur and were brilliantly effective, the organization time and effort involved must have been many-fold more intensive that what is necessary today. Just look at Facebook, and how quickly an event can explode.


Amanda said...

I agree Jacob, Flash-mobbing is strange! When started reading the article by Nicholson, I was totally confused at what was going on. Then once I caught on a little more, I realized that Flash-mobbing is harmless.

There are no leaders and messages channel through a bunch of people like chain mail. I think people are attracted to be apart of this because it makes them feel apart of something bigger than them. It gives them a sense of belonging and their strange meetings might provide them with a certain spontaneity they might not experience in their regular lives.

I say they are harmless because they don't involve violence. These crazy meetings around rugs at department stores are used as entertainment for those who have too much time on their hands.

moniquesandoval said...

I really like how Jacob compared this "flash-mobbing" phenomenon to the Facebook phenomenon. I must admit, that I too, was confused when I began reading Nicholson. (on a side note, I feel as though he could have done a better job introducing the idea of "flash-mobbing," but strictly mu opinion) I just don't quite understand the effect or purpose of these flash mobs. I see that they are entirely harmless and last for only minutes at a time, but it seems to be a pointless gathering of people demonstrating a point they do not have. Or perhaps their point is that they have nothing better to do than demonstrate a non-existent belief.

Maybe I just am completely out of the loop in this entire flash mob purpose and if anyone wants to clear it up, please do. I'd love to be educated on this modern technological demonstration sensation. But as Jacob said, it simply reminds me of a party event I receive on Facebook.

On a positive, more educational note, I do see the impact of technology on society. It is amazing that in the matter of one minute, a countless number of people can receive the same message in the palm of their hand and they can be hundreds of miles away. It truly is an incredible idea that we so often take for granted. It is also important to be reminded of the safety this technology can provide us. The tragedy at Virginia Tech illustrated the importance of "mass text messaging" as a means to alert students of potential danger. Technology truly is a blessing, that indeed comes with a valid and accessible danger.

Libby said...

A agree with all of you about the sensational impact of flash-mobbing. I was confused with this article, I kept waiting to understand the point of the mob, i.e. a protest, a gathering, something other than talking about a ten thousand dollar rug in Macy's.

I think this article demonstrates both the technological power that we have, and basically what in general we use it for: sensation. Just imagine the impact these chain mail texts, blogs, emails, etc would have if they were for a real purpose to gather people for a point.

Although it is a good point that people do want to feel as if they are a part of something and that is the appeal of flash-mobbing, I do hope that wanting to be a part of something bigger can extend beyond crazy short-lived gatherings to utilize this technological power for social change.

kaylamksilva said...

The idea of flash-mobbing just reminded me of a big practical joke. Only they have so much more appeal because they are done with tons of people and are usually done with people you don't even know, which can allow for a different and unique SENSATION. By the way, this word describes the reason these "gatherings" are popular brilliantly. I agree with Libby and really hope that the occurrence and popularity of these flash-mobs can really be put to use because honestly, what are we creating all of this technology for if it's not used for the betterment of society and our world? Is everything we do merely for entertainment?

Eli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli said...

As is flash mobs do seem rather pointless, get a text and go somewhere for a few minutes and you just happen to run into everyone else who has a cell phone too...great. But it is a newer phenomenon, one that has not yet had ample time to grow and morph into something useful. With time the utility of most actions, and activities grow otherwise they fade away and die. Like with facebook, if facebook had stayed the way that it was when it was first formed (designed for only one school) it would have been useless, but now it is available to everyone (which may or may not be good) and has so many applications as social networking tools, ways to keep in contact with friends, etc. It grew from a mostly useless program to one that is actually quite useful. Thus, flash mobs in their current state may be useless, but just give them time (if they are ever popular again).