Monday, August 04, 2003

What: Mob Scene. Who: Strangers. Point: None.

What: Mob Scene. Who: Strangers. Point: None.: "Many people were asking the same question. The telephone-wielding crowd was the latest incarnation of something called flash mobs. Called into being on short notice by Web sites and e-mail distribution lists, flash mobs meet at an appointed time, engage in some organized spontaneity for a few minutes, then rapidly disperse. The activities are innocent, if mysterious, and tend to bring together loose groupings of surprisingly conventional looking young adults.
Brimming with such a lack of purpose, the fad has found a home in Berlin and across Germany.
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As might be suspected, New York is the acknowledged place where people first used the latest technology to gather and delight in pointlessness. In June, more than 100 people gathered in the rug department of Macy's, claiming to a bewildered clerk that they were looking for a "love rug" for their suburban commune. The concept quickly took on a life of its own, propelled by e-mail, cellphones and the Internet.
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The lack of apparent purpose only broadens the appeal of flash mobs. Still, woven among the cheerful inanity of like-minded Web sites like cheesebikini.com and flashmob.info is some discussion of their importance. Howard Rheingold, who has published a book entitled "Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution," thinks flash mobs are part of a larger trend. "Right now, it's just people wanting to do something silly and it's not hurting anybody, so what's the harm?" he says on smartmobs.com, a Web site that is dedicated to his book. "But it shouldn't come as a surprise when this becomes a major outlet of political activism soon as well," he says, perhaps hopefully."
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