Smart Mobs Happen

I’ve been working my way through Howard Rheingold’s timely book Smart Mobs, wherein he talks about the new and transformative properties of crowds that are in constant communication by mobile phones and other such devices. This new technology gives heretofore amorphous crowds a robust nervous system, allowing them to precipitate from the clear blue sky, strike like a fist, and then dissipate again. Rheingold likes telling the story from the point of view of smart crowd activists unseating the government in the Philippines. But Americans seem to prefer zany crowd stunts. Here’s a good article that Nabeel sent along about a flash mob in Texas: Stunts involving ‘mob’ silliness latest e-mail craze. Look for flash mobs appearing (and then quickly dissolving) near you. The overall effect is surprisingly similar to the life cycle of a cellular slime mold, in which lonely amoebas congregate, form a slug-like party on wheels, and then dissolve in a dusty sprinkling of lonely spores. That’s progress for you.