London’s first Flash mob took place last night. I wasn’t there, as I was doing Important Research (yeah, OK, I was watching Terminator 3 – it was average) but I’m interested in the phenomenon, which, from where I sit, looks to be largely stillborn.
The point of these things (in so far as they have one) is to introduce a moment of random strangeness into the lives of people observing the phenomenon – a bunch of people doing something faintly surreal, and scattering, leaving nothing more than bemused smiles in their wake. This isn’t going to work, if people spot a crowd of people doing something stupid, and mutter “Oh, another bloody flashmob”.
Which, given the level of media coverage that these events are now getting, is what seems pretty likely to happen. They’re not going to be strange and unexpected, because everyone’s going to have heard of them.
Earlier in the week, I was arguing that these things aren’t just a load of artwank – they’re (theoretically) a way of experimenting with new social technologies, part of a process of acclimatization to new group dynamics spawned by changing methods of communication. A chance for people to adjust to them in play, so that they can use them in seriousness, although I note that the technologies employed by the precursor of this sort of thing, the illegal raves of the eighties and nineties never really got much used outside the chemical scene.
I think I’ll have to amend my position, in light of the media circus, and the sheer pointlessness of forcing a shopkeeper to reopen his shop so that they could go and be “random” in it – neither anonymous, or likely to put a smile on the faces of the passing public, who will almost certainly not have noticed. The notion of a flashmob is an interesting one, full of potential, and not just artwank. But so long as it’s artwankers who organise these things, they’re going to remain a load of luvvie toss.