Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Whither Flash Mobs?

I first heard about the "flash mob" phenomenon a few years ago, before my perceptual filters were tinted by the knowledge of New Media and MCM theory. I thought it was weird and geeky - who has so much free time and so few friends that they randomly meet in large crowds, temporarily, for fun? Tuesday's lecture helped me better understand the political, technological, and social implications of flash mobs.

I particularly like the idea that flash mobs are the physical manifestation of one person's, or several peoples', virtual email lists. It made me think of today's flash mobs - Facebook party invites. I've been invited to several parties via facebook, and it's usually seemed as though the host simply checked off everyone on their list to send out the invitations. In fact, several invitations have allowed me to forward the message to anyone else I'd like to invite. Naturally, these events have important differences from classic flash mobs - namely, they have a purpose and many people likely know each other - yet they retain the key similarity that they are physical manifestations of virtual friends lists. I think there's an interesting tension here between the physical and the virtual. On the one hand, the party-goers likely all originate from a similar, albeit wide, circle of friends. On the other, the invitation list is created through the far less "real," very arbitrary friends list on facebook. Another layer of complication comes when the partygoers all meet and friend each other on Facebook, and then, one day, invite each other to a new party.

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