Suggested reading: “My Crowd,” by Bill Wasik

Perhaps you’ve heard of the flash mob, a phenomenon that became vogue in the early/mid 00’s, generally defined as “a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.” Flash mobs are organized anonymously, through e-mail, text messaging, or social networking sites.

In the 2006 article “My Crowd, or Phase 5: A report from the inventor of the flash mob,” Harper’s editor Bill Wasik revealed that he created the first flash mob in May 2003. Wasik conceived of the flash mob as a social experiment to comment on the conformist behavior and “scenesterism” of urban hipsters, but soon found that his experiment had become a media sensation: a flash mob murder was a major plot point in a 2004 episode of “CSI: Miami”, and Wasik describes attending a “flash concert” organized by Ford and Sony to promote the Ford Fusion.

Wasik’s article is also an insightful (and frequently funny) commentary on a weird paradox inherent in today’s digital media culture: while it gives us the tools to create new and interesting forms of expression (the flash mob, for instance), it also enables the “mob mentality” on a massive scale.

I think this would be a great reading for either Monday or Wednesday, but I can’t decide which–maybe we should put it to a vote?

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