Harper's senior editor and author Bill Wasik came by the studio yesterday to talk about the great liberties of the Internet, nano-narratives, short attention spans and flash mobbing a gigantic Toys"R"Us dinosaur.
Flash mobs came out of Wasik's desire to unite people in an offline viral way for no reason at all.
They've happened all over the world after he organized the first one in New York in 2003. A mix of performance art and social experimentation, flash mobs organize people to stage, say, a pillow fight or a mass human freezing in the middle of Grand Central Station. They last ten minutes or less and then the flash mobbers disperse into the ether of public space.
Nevertheless, in their non-agenda, flash mobs have drawn attention to the rigid behavioral norms that govern public space in America. Just try to get thirty people to bow down in front of a large toy dinosaur in a mall and see if onlookers don't notice. Or police don't show up.
"A lot of flash mobs happen in public space or semi-public space where you're allowed to come in as someone who's just going to shop, for example, but when you try to express yourself in any way act, when you try to do anything that's outside of the so-called prescribed things you do in that space, then suddenly you're considered a trespasser," Wasik elaborated.
If you are considering a flash mob of your own, you have Wasik's hearty encouragement. Here's how it's done: