A flash mob
is a group of people who assemble suddenly in
a public place, do something unusual or notable,
and then disperse. They are usually organized
with the help of the Internet or other digital
The first flash mob was organized in Manhattan in May 2003,
by an underground group called the "Mob Project".
The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted
retail store was tipped off about the plan for
about fifty people to gather. The first successful
flash mob assembled in June 2003 at Macy's department
store. Organizers avoided such problems during
the second flash mob by sending participants to
preliminary staging areas—in four pre-arranged
Manhattan bars—where they received further
instructions about the ultimate event and location
just before the event began.
More than 100 people converged upon the 9th floor rug department
of Macy's department store, gathering around one
particular very expensive rug. Anyone approached
by a sales assistant was advised to say that the
gatherers lived together in a warehouse on the
outskirts of New York, that they were shopping
for a Love Rug, and that they made all their purchase
decisions as a group. Following this flash mob,
about 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine
of the Hyatt hotel in synchronized applause for
about 15 seconds, and next a shoe boutique in
Soho was invaded by participants pretending to
be tourists on a bus trip.
For partial origin of the name, see also: Flash crowd, Flash Mob entry on wordspy.com, Smart mob.
Around the world
Flash mob events quickly spread to Asia, and by August 2003 to Europe, Latin America and Australia. The first flash mob in India took place on October 4 2003 outside a shopping centre. A group of 70 people gathered, talking loudly about stock prices and then dancing for a few minutes. More flash mob events were planned for Mumbai, but the police there introduced strict security restrictions in response to bomb blasts that occurred around the time. Police permission would have needed to be sought before a gathering of more than five people could take place.
Usage and effects
Flash mobs started as pointless stunts, but the concept has already developed for the benefit of political and social agendas. For example, a group of gay and lesbian people in Detroit targeted a "straight restaurant" in reaction to reported homophobia there. Flash mobbing utilises the efficiency of communicating information on websites and by email, and protestors can use the "on and off" concept to swarm political events just like that restaurant.
Flash mob gatherings can sometimes shock people. Such activity might seem amusing and surreal, but it also might frighten people who are not aware of what is taking place.
On Monday 13 October 2003, a flash mob took place at the site of the David Blaine stunt beneath the Tower Bridge in London. This was the start of the final week of magician Blaine's stunt, which sees him encased in a Perspex box for 44 days without any food, and hundreds of participants met at the South Bank by the Tower Bridge at 19:44.
For one minute, the "flash mobbers" set off their mobile phone ringtones at the loudest setting, and then for the next minute the group stopped their ringtones and chanted "what goes up, must come down". The flash mobbers then created a cacophony of laughter while holding an item of food in the air, and then separated to bring the area back to its usual calm.
In August 2003, a flash mob gathered at an Oxfam charity shop in Birmingham. The group stripped off their clothes and waved them above their heads while singing Give it Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and donated their clothes to the store. This event was described as being "the world's first altruistic mob".
Earlier in the same month, a flash mob event took place at the London Eye In London, where an estimated one hundred people gathered and waved bananas clockwise in the air in order to celebrate the Millennium Wheel. These two events followed the first flash mob in England, which occurred at a Central London store and involved about 500 people speaking without use of the letter "O".
On 31 March 2005, about 80 to 100 people assembled outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh-without any visible signal (though at what must have been a pre-arranged time) most of them produced pillows or cushions, then enthusiastically and cheerfully thrashed each other for about 20 minutes before gradually dispersing.
Other forms of flash mob activity
Flash mob computing is a temporary supercomputer made when a large group of people get together and tie computers together for a single purpose or event.