Last night, at 10pm, Loui's Restaurant (286 Brook St.) exceeded its maximum capacity. A herd of Brown students, RISD students, and townsfolk alike swarmed into the self-proclaimed grease-shack to watch Loui's be showcased on the Food Channel's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. At least 75 strangers laughed, cheered, and ate free pizza together. The factors of class, race, age, and occupation dissipated. As Vincente Rafael argues in his 2003 essay, "The Cell Phone and the Crowd," the crowd renders hierarchy an arbitrary concept, and thus "constraint gives way to an unexpected clearing, to a giving away that opens for the other to be free, the other other that now includes the self caught in the crowd" During this 20 minute slice of democratic utopia, it felt as though time was suspended. A now homogeneous mass of former individuals established a micro-community around the glow-box. They converged, mingled, and forged ties around the media object. Following consumption, heterogeneity resurfaced and the mob disbanded. The cursory yet epic narrative of the imagined nation of Loui's spanned from 10pm November 2nd to 10:20pm November 2nd.
Spontaneous crowds may have the potential to "overwhelm the physical constraints of urban planning and to blur social distinctions," but this consensual embrace between 'self' and the 'other' is inherently transitory. The crowd is is the instance; it is the experience; it is the now.