Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Agent Smith Smart Mob!

Fascinating. It appears that smart mobbing is starting to become a form of entertainment. (They’re called "flash mobs" in New York.) A couple days ago a flash mob swarmed a Macy’s (some great pictures of the event are here and here; here’s Wired’s article on it).

As one participant so charmingly put it, "Everyone loves a mindless mob!"

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, a smart mob of Agent Smiths swarmed Tokyo and Osaka.

(The connection between smart mobs and Matrix Reloaded is one of those things that, in retrospsect, you realize had to happen sooner or later.)

While this is definitely one of those things that would be hard to do when you have kids, it does look like it would be a lot of fun. Maybe it’s something I can organize at the next academic conference I’m at. It doubtless would flip out some people.

Update: San Fracisco pioneered a Mad Santa Crawl, featuring "a crowd of santas [that] descends upon one of san francisco’s most-touristed neighborhoods to get drunk, to hand out disturbing gifts, and to frighten tourists. " This Santarchy is spreading….

Later: Was I drunk when I wrote that update? A screwed-up bold tag, a  misspelling… standards are falling.

Yet another Update: Howard Rheingold says that "inexplicable mobs are popping up all over the place," including New York, Detroit, and elsewhere. Also, in the Department of Smart Mobs and National Stereotypes, Australian teenagers are using SMS for high-powered party hopping. One young lady invited

70 friends to her 18th birthday party, held at her parents’ home in the eastern suburbs. About 300 youths turned up uninvited. There were fights, but her father managed to kick out most of the intruders.

My kind of dad!


  1. Michael Dennis

    June 20, 2003 at 3:32 pm

    Actually, it has certainly arrived since it was on NPR this afternoon. I found the idea of setting alarm clocks in the accessories store to be quite funny. One thing I would note is that this is clearly an urban game; I don’t think it will catch on if you have to drive and find a parking space. However, unemployment and the ability to either walk or catch a subway may just make this a great recession sport!

  2. I didn’t realize it was on NPR. The meme has definitely hit the big time– with liberal, cappucino-swilling, Ikea-shopping, hybrid car-driving elitist urban denizens, anyway.

    And you’re undoubtedly right that this is an urban, good-public-transportation kind of thing: it would be harder to do in Denver than New York, or harder in Los Angeles than Washington.

    Personally, I think it would be a great thing to do at a conference: have fifty people walk into a session at a prearranged time, and each of them removes a chair, or something. Almost enough to make me go to AHA….

  3. On NPR, they managed to have commentary that made it sound like this was a “New York” kind of thing–just the sort of snobbery that makes me want to get on the El with 350 of my closest strangers. It sounded pretty funny, though. One would need an organizer with a good sense of how far to go with the concept. Perhaps a mob of demonstrators at the Daley Plaza Farmers’ Market protesting the murder of innocent flora, etc.

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