I had an interesting discussion with Jere about the whole flash mob thing, with some random musing on dada. I wound up saying:
I’m not sure that there’s not a paradox inherent in the concept. The need to draw in a lot of people conflicts with the need to keep the details under wraps. Once People Magazine does a story on it (which will be next week, I understand), it’s no longer mysterious.
Another effect of cheap communication. But you can’t know until you try, so it’s worth trying to see what happens. Failed experiments are still useful.
Regarding spontaneity, I think we had some in Boston. In the absence of specific instructions, I triggered the Happy Birthday whistle on the spur of the moment, and the crowd was willing to pick it up. Someone else (not an organizer) triggered the applause.
That was what was fun for me. The crowd knew it was supposed to do something, but didn’t know what. Supersaturated solution. It was clear from moment one that the surprise and delight aspect wasn’t going to be so strong. But it was interesting getting the crowd to come together on something that wasn’t preplanned.
In the more general sense, I think it’s healthy for the media to be reminded that sometimes fads grow and fade without their help. The phenomenon indicates that the media isn’t the only vector of information anymore.
Which is probably not the final story, but I thought I’d throw it out there.