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Flash Mobs go Global
July 31, 2003 1:18 AM   Subscribe

Flash Mobs are cool. A couple hundred people spontaneously assemble in seconds, applaud (or ask for books, or do the robot), and leave. There are several ways to take part, if you're so inclined.
posted by Tlogmer (47 comments total)

 
(On a tangentally-related note: the Library Musical)
posted by Tlogmer at 1:20 AM on July 31, 2003


Heh. Here in Hong Kong, the whole damned city is a flash mob, all day long.
posted by bwg at 1:36 AM on July 31, 2003


Flash Mobs are cool

No. They're not.
posted by PenDevil at 1:36 AM on July 31, 2003 [1 favorite]


hailing from philly, a town where you can just barely get off of your front steps before shouting bingo, i am delighted that this stupid trend has not caught on here.

years ago, i kept trying to talk people into protesting against the silent scream of cabbage, and no tuesdays in march. things of that nature. no one went along with it because it was a very stupid idea. hey, i was 14, what do you want from me?

the first time i see a pack of people assemble on south street to walk backwards or something similarly stupid, i swear.. i'm getting water balloons. lots and lots of water balloons. water balloons full of bricks.
posted by onedarkride at 1:47 AM on July 31, 2003


There's been numerous MeFi posts regarding Mobloging which is a better term (IMO). see 1, 2, & 3, among others.

But this is global? Is there a difference?
posted by DBAPaul at 3:17 AM on July 31, 2003


It's only cool to those participating because they're in on the joke, and they assume everyone else isn't.

Wouldn't it be fun to subvert the mob by getting a second group to "spontaneously" show up and loudly explain to observers what was going on. Or maybe several people with video cameras who would "spontaneously" do documentaries.

"And here we have a group of bored webloggers trying to find something more inane to do than jotting their random thoughts into an online journal."
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:55 AM on July 31, 2003


Heh, y6y6y6, great idea. A well-intentioned flash mob would love this kind of competition/enhancement for their act. A bunch of snarky hipsters, of course, would not.

I myself rather like the flash mobs, but then I have a soft spot for clunky, awkward, "art" projects. "We will insert a dose of randomness into the pallid, repetitive lives of the common man...with this excruciatingly planned and completely scripted act!" Hee. I can't help but like it, like a gawky baby deer.
posted by hilatron at 4:25 AM on July 31, 2003


Flash Mobs = Hawaiian Shirt Day
posted by mkelley at 5:01 AM on July 31, 2003


There was an article in the Boston Globe about these, so I think that they're now officially "not cool." It will just take a couple of column inches in Time to kill them completely.

As for the hipster bingo, I have the chunky black plastic glasses. I guess that I am pretentious after all.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:39 AM on July 31, 2003


Well, the idea is, you don't know what the 'assignment' is untill just a few minutes before the thing actualy goes down.

What would be cool is if you combined this with text messaging, so people would show up somewhere, all get texted to go do something else in 10 minutes, then get the final instructions just a few meters away.
posted by delmoi at 5:56 AM on July 31, 2003


We've got flash mob stuff going on in Austin, and you know what? It's pretty fun. Maybe not as fun as sitting on your porch and shaking your cane at the damn kids to get off your lawn, but, whatever works for you.
posted by majcher at 6:12 AM on July 31, 2003


NERDS!
posted by signal at 6:26 AM on July 31, 2003


"you don't know what the 'assignment' is untill just a few minutes before"

Which makes it even more fun to subvert.

I can see this working well the other way also. Set up an event, then just have fun getting people to do stupid stuff.

10:35 - mill around the park at La Jolla Cove. Await further instructions.
10:40 - Wade out into the ocean. Point and laugh at the people on the shore for 20 seconds. Go back to the beach, shake like a dog, stand around, look confused for 30 seconds. Go home.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:28 AM on July 31, 2003


Wooh look mum: no phone calls!
posted by walrus at 6:36 AM on July 31, 2003


I vote ... seriously uncool. Uncool to disrupt the work of low paid service industry workers just to get one's jollies, and uncool because flash mobs in stores make it really easy for the people who show up to avail themselves of the shoplifting possibilities.
posted by sperare at 6:37 AM on July 31, 2003


Maybe not as fun as sitting on your porch and shaking your cane at the damn kids to get off your lawn

Right. Because if you're not in on a throwaway, now very unoriginal joke with a bunch of strangers, you're an old crank. I hadn't looked at it like that before, majacher. I'm sitting in my barcalounger watching "Murder, She Wrote" reruns, and you're living one of the glamorous, youthful lives that I've seen in those Pepsi commericals.

Let me reiterate-- you're not blowing anyone's mind. The "phenomenon" has been covered in the popular press, and anyone with a bit of sense already knew that your spectacle was a plot to show up somewhere and act with forced irreverance. Perhaps if the bulk of our Baby Boomer parents hadn't been so self-absorbed, your ilk would have gotten the attention that you need during childhood.

If being cool means having an in-joke with a lot of folks with idle hands, it's never felt better to be lame.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:37 AM on July 31, 2003


Totally dorky? Uncool? Perhaps.

A FlashMob amounts to a physical manifestation of an otherwise intangible information network. This is more than an in joke, by far.
posted by aladfar at 6:54 AM on July 31, 2003


Of course, not all smart mobs are created with "socially beneficial ends" in mind, as Rheingold notes. He says people in Nigeria used their cell phones to help organize protests against last year's Miss World pageant ...

But the New York mobs are, for the most part, doing a good thing, Rheingold says. ..."and people are using this means to demonstrate in a harmless manner that it's OK to assemble and have fun."


There's something about that rubs me wrong in like 27 different ways. "Flash mobs" actually have a shot at social relevance when they organize around actual issues, to stop coups, protest bloddy regimes, etc. Yet this asshat feels that the only "socially beneficial" use is for him and other like-minded overfed, overstimulated asshats to get together and laugh at a nerdy injoke?

Fuck that.
posted by signal at 6:59 AM on July 31, 2003


1) Borders on performance art, which is inherently repugnant

2) Has been done in various forms since the 50s, and probably before

3) Involves people who win Hipster Bingo every day of their lives

4) Often appeal to those who've failed at painting, film, music and other worthwhile pursuits

5) Is so faux-jarring and faux-weird that it deserves its own mainstream mention in the Boston Globe or somewhere. Oh, hmmm...
posted by dhoyt at 7:03 AM on July 31, 2003


I was going to take the time to savage this wretched warmed-over meme, but am delighted to see that so many of you have already done so - marvelously!
posted by MaxVonCretin at 7:12 AM on July 31, 2003


"you're not blowing anyone's mind."

It's not suppose to. Like duh.

I happen to think the meme is a bit silly, but the backlash even more so. Reminds me about the backlash against blogs. What's worse: Pointless attention getting activities using new tech? Or pompous cynics who insist it's not fun, not fun at all, because it's pointless attention getting, and it's not fun.

Why would mobloggers care about blowing your mind? It's like skateboard - Either it's fun, or it's not. Big deal.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:21 AM on July 31, 2003


It's not suppose to

Trust me, it's supposed to.

I visited DC a few weeks ago to see friends. The folks they introduced me to had partipated in the Flash Mob thing and were quite vocal about how many minds they'd blown, how "Other" the whole experience was, and how cool it had been to see the bourgeoisie shaken from their meaningless complacent existences, maaaaan. It was stomach-turning, and tired tired tired.

Surely this doesn't represent all FlashMobbers, but for me it just reinforced the lameness.
posted by dhoyt at 7:37 AM on July 31, 2003


"Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:53 AM on July 31, 2003


If this is my generation's idea of "peaceable assembly," it's no wonder the country's in such a handbasket.

I have three words for this:

Stuffing telephone booths.
posted by scarabic at 7:54 AM on July 31, 2003


Mobs forming after communication via mobile phone and email? This has been going on in the UK for years, under the name "football hooliganism".

I'd rather run with the Service Crew than any of these dorks.
posted by SiW at 8:17 AM on July 31, 2003


dhoyt - Oh....... That's indeed sad.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:19 AM on July 31, 2003


y6y6y6, I still like your idea of a counter-mob that loudly explains the whole thing. Let's get it organized.

This thread has renewed my faith in MeFi. Who would've thought a good old fashioned hipster-hating session could have come out of this. It's almost a bonding experience. Thanks MeFi.
posted by dhoyt at 8:44 AM on July 31, 2003


SiW: I was thinking more along the lines of raves in the late 80s...
posted by i_cola at 9:01 AM on July 31, 2003


Maybe not as fun as sitting on your porch and shaking your cane at the damn kids to get off your lawn, but, whatever works for you.

yeah old people are so uncool aren't they? I mean they could never understand how deeep we are and all that.

physical manifestation of an otherwise intangible information network

oooh is that what it says in the brochure. nice one!

This is more than an in joke, by far.
So what is it exactly then? please don't talk in riddles, spit out what you believe in. Is it going to bring about world peace, make me breakfast in the morning, cause people to love their fellow man, or what?
posted by carfilhiot at 9:19 AM on July 31, 2003


www.hipstersareannoying.com
posted by topherbecker at 9:24 AM on July 31, 2003


(carfilhiot, i was under the impression aladfar was being facetious--uh, right?
posted by dhoyt at 9:40 AM on July 31, 2003


i_cola - yeah, I was thinking that too, but I thought a group of people getting together to fight made a more interesting comparison than a bunch of people getting together for a good time in Blackburn ;)
posted by SiW at 10:07 AM on July 31, 2003


yeah old people are so uncool aren't they? I mean they could never understand how deeep we are and all that.

Jesus, and I thought I was cranky. Look, I'm at a pretty untrustable age, I've got a porch, and I have, in fact, yelled at kids to get out of my yard. I am composed primarily of anti-hipster matter. I can't stand "bloggers". And yet, I still cannot fathom the large quantities of hostility and disdain coming at the flash mob thing.

It's just stupid fun. There's no political or philisophical purpose behind it - if there was, it'd be something else. If people are freaked out by it or something, well, fine. But shit, man, what's with the meta-hip hatin'? "Oh, these kids think they're so cool, but they're not cool - they're stupid! See how cool I am for thinking they're not cool? See? Cool!"

Dumbasses.
posted by majcher at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2003


so how the heck did "hipster" ever evolve into "mindless consumer"?

i think i'd much rather be friends with "hipsters" (which i guess i'd define as people who search for "cool" or create "cool" art and literature) than the dorks (it actually looks like just one person?) on hipstersareannoying.com. negativity is *so* 20th century.

an example:
"I also doubt very much that the shredded coagulates of apocalyptic detachment that roar forth from these garments and scrape dumbly at each of our scabbed over idiot meters even so much as flitted the eyelashes of a handful of you."

um, right. hipster, know thyself.

fwiw, i don't think flashmobs are as "cool" as organized efforts to fuck shit up, like santarchy, or even the black bloc.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:23 AM on July 31, 2003


btw, it appears that flash mobs are already over in San Francisco.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:38 AM on July 31, 2003


Every now and then I am glad I live in a cultural wasteland where the only way anybody could know about doofy stuff like this is by reading weird blue websites.

note: this does not make me cool, hence my ability to use the word "doofy" in a sentence. Also I am stealing majcher's sentence about being "composed primarily of anti-hipster matter" at the earliest possible opportunity. This doesn't make me cool, either, but dammit life is for living.
posted by furiousthought at 12:00 PM on July 31, 2003


dhoyt - hmm not convinced but maybe.. hopefully mrgrimm too. you hipster you!

I always thought that referring to things as *so* C20 is **so** C20.

majcher - :) ok you're cool. but damn youre supposed to stand up for generation x not hand it over so easily to these lame pretenders.
posted by carfilhiot at 2:05 PM on July 31, 2003


OK, maybe "cool" was the wrong adjective. As majcher said, it's just stupid fun. (Living in a midwestern suburban backwater, I haven't actually met anyone who takes part; if in fact they think they're "shaking up the bourgeoisie," then yeah, it's the epitome of RunAway!, but I get a kick out of the minnesota flash mob that went to the Bose display and watched movies.)
posted by Tlogmer at 2:17 PM on July 31, 2003


Also, I think I'll add that this elitism is probably the worst aspect of Metafilter. Sorry for not being Trendy and Connected enough to know that flash mobs are "already over in San Fransisco".
posted by Tlogmer at 2:22 PM on July 31, 2003


This ranks right up there with SARS Folk Art. Please.
posted by pmurray63 at 4:13 PM on July 31, 2003


Also, I think I'll add that this elitism is probably the worst aspect of Metafilter.

Yes. Also, the second-worst aspect of Metafilter is the whining about elitism.
posted by Acetylene at 6:30 PM on July 31, 2003


Feel free to continue mocking this idea and anyone who participates in it, and I will continue not caring what you think. It sounds fun and weird; harmlessly anarchic and out of the ordinary. An excuse to break the routine, go somewhere new, meet new people, and have some fun.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:31 PM on July 31, 2003


This doesn't seem like hipster material to me. More like band geek material, wouldn't you say? And band geeks were never hip, nor will they ever be. The hipsters are, well, too hip to dislocate their cool in this fashion. At least that's how it looks in SF.

Also, there's nothing wothing wrong with human networking practice. They should try organizing a "stunt" on "election day", though, where everyone goes to a "polling place" and, on cue, casts a "vote."

They can wear funny hats if they like.

y6y6y6: ...trying to find something more inane to do than jotting their random thoughts into an online journal.

Scientifically impossible.
posted by squirrel at 11:15 PM on July 31, 2003


Flash Mobs are cool. A couple hundred people spontaneously assemble in seconds.

If they could spontaneously combust instead, that would really be impressive.
posted by walrus at 4:17 AM on August 1, 2003


flash mobs are already over in San Francisco

That's funny. There's one today. Maybe they're Examiner readers.
posted by emptyage at 11:52 AM on August 1, 2003


Anyone see/hear how it went?
posted by squirrel at 7:16 PM on August 1, 2003


3 people showed up for the Flash Mob at de Dam in Amsterdam yesterday. teehee.
posted by ginz at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2003


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