Flash Mob

A flash mob (or inexplicable mob) is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual for a brief period of time, then quickly disperse.

News media and commentators have often misused the term "flash mob" to refer to nearly any form of public gathering.

The first flash mob was organized in Manhattan in May 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper's Magazine. The origins of the flash mobs were unknown until Wasik published an article about his creation in the March 2006 edition of Harper's. The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted retail store was tipped off about the plan for people to gather. The first successful flash mob assembled in June 3, 2003 at Macy's department store. Wasik avoided such problems during the second flash mob by sending participants to preliminary staging areas—in four prearranged Manhattan bars—where they received further instructions about the ultimate event and location just before the event began.

More than one hundred people converged upon the ninth floor rug department of Macy's department store, gathering around one particular very expensive rug. Anyone approached by a sales assistant was advised to say that the gatherers lived together in a warehouse on the outskirts of New York, that they were shopping for a Love Rug, and that they made all their purchase decisions as a group. Following this flash mob, about 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine of the Hyatt hotel in synchronized applause for about fifteen seconds, and next a shoe boutique in SoHo was invaded by participants pretending to be tourists on a bus trip.

In the article Wasik claimed that he created flash mobs as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters, and highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of "the next big thing."

Flash mobs bear certain similarities to political demonstrations, although flash mobs were originally intended to be specifically apolitical. Flash mobs can be seen as a specialized form of smart mob, which is a term and concept forwarded by author Howard Rheingold in his 2002 book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.

The term flash mob is claimed to have been inspired by both “smart mob” and “flash crowd.”

In 1973, the story Flash Crowd by Larry Niven described a concept vaguely similar to flash mobs. It described how, with the invention of popular teleportation, an argument at a shopping mall, which happened to be covered by a news crew, swells into a riot. The broadcast coverage attracted the attention of other people, who use the widely available technology of the teleportation booth to swarm first that event — thus intensifying the riot — and then other events as they happened. In actuality, flash crowds are used to start up and heighten riots. When a riot begins and is televised, others join in, resulting in the participation of millions of people. Commenting on the social impact of such mobs, one character in Niven's story, articulating the police view, says, "We call them flash crowds, and we watch for them." The first recorded use of the now more familiar term "flash mob", was in 2003, and featured in a blog entry posted in the aftermath of Wasik's event.

The 1998 novel Distraction by Bruce Sterling also features a riot by a flash mob in its opening pages, although the term is not used, and the flash mob riot is only a very peripheral element of the plot.

Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English defines flash mob as “a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse.” This definition is consistent with the original use of the term; however, both news media and promoters have subsequently and incorrectly used the term to refer to any form of smart mob, including:

* A "silent rave" at Victoria Station, London involving 4,000 participants

* Political protests

* A collaborative Internet denial of service attack

* A collaborative supercomputing demonstration

* Collaborative bargaining techniques being practiced in China

* Promotional appearances by a pop musician

In 1800s Tasmania, the term "flash mob" was used to describe a subculture consisting of female prisoners, based on the term "flash language" for the jargon that these women used. The 1800s Australian term "flash mob" referred to a segment of society, not an event, and showed no other similarities to the modern term "flash mob" or the events it describes.

Flash mobs started as pointless stunts, but the concept has already developed for the benefit of political and social agendas. Flash mobbing utilises the efficiency of communicating information on websites and by email, and protesters can similarly use the "on and off" concept to swarm political events.

Flash mob activity occurred in the capital Beijing and the government seems to tolerate it when there is no clear breach of the law involved.

In April 2004 thousands of people took to Shanghai's streets, motivated by mass SMS. Nationalistically-themed messages including "Show your patriotism! Support China!! Protest against the lies of Japan!" were sent. Many emphasised peaceful behaviour. Police ensured that the protest, one of very few officially sanctioned in China in recent years, was orderly and arranged for bus transport to disperse protestors after a few Japanese cars and the windows at the Japanese embassy were attacked. The protests involved Japanese refusal to acknowledge alleged wrongs done to China by Japan during WWII.

In December 2004, in Bucharest, Romania, in front of the National Television building, approximately 70 people stuck duct tape on their mouths and performed a jogging session without leaving their places. It was a flash mob that many referred to as "Shut Your Mouth And Play Those Ankles," a Romanian saying which means "do as you are told, do not comment." The statement criticized limits to freedom of speech placed upon journalists on Televiziunea Română, the Romanian National Television. In conjunction with other events, this flash-mob prompted changes in the board of the National Television.

The world's largest reported flash mob occurred in the United Kingdom on 30 November 2006 at Paddington station. More than 3,500 people were in attendance, a record number that has yet to be surpassed.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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