In this weeks reading we took a look at the beginning of a phenomenon called “smart mobs” coined by Howard Rheingold. These mobs are able to coordinate quickly to participate in anything from political protests to meeting new people on the street. The increased availability of mobile phones and the power of the technology allows for new ways for people to interact with each other. While some of these smart mobs result in harmful situations, many of the mobs now are being coordinated for enjoyable activities.
When examining smart mobs Rheingold saw that some of the technology was being used for violence but he also noted that, “any observer who focuses exclusively on the potential for violence would miss evidence of perhaps an even more profoundly disruptive potential— for beneficial as well as malign purposes—of smart mob technologies and techniques.” Rheingold realized that the technology used by the military when he was writing the book would become more accessible to the public and we are currently seeing these ideas becoming a reality. Techniques such as “swarming” arose from the ability for people to instantly communicate through social media and text messaging which allows for people to organize and cooperate more quickly than ever before.
For instance the organization Improv Everywhere sets up missions on their Facebook and Twitter pages. These events , which are being called flash mobs, are usually pranks of silly nature such as riding the New York Subway without pants. However, others are just fun ideas. One of these smart mobs was coordinated through Facebook and text messaging telling people to download an mp3 file, and where to meet in New York City. This message was spread through the networks and eventually the gathering grew to thousands of people. At 8:30p.m. people were told to start listening to the downloaded mp3, this lead to an awesome spectacle of group participation. The video shows the “swarming” technique as people move quickly and converge on a single area once the idea is spread to the group. This organization of people was caused by using cell phones and social networks to spread the word showing how Rheingold was right in his ideas. Smart mob technologies and techniques are being used to benefit the group rather than cause violence or protests. The ability for massive amounts of strangers to coordinate such an effort points to the power of smart mob technologies. It will be interesting to see how the ability for large amounts of people to seamlessly connect with one and other will further impact our world.