Never heard of a flash mob? No need to be shy if you haven’t, because many people have not. Wikipedia says that a flash mob (or flashmob) is a “group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.” The first ever flash mob was attempted in Manhattan in 2003, by Bill Wasik, the senior editor of Harper’s Magazine.
In one of the interviews Wasik gave, he said that “the mobs started as a kind of playful social experiment meant to encourage spontaneity and big gatherings to temporarily take over commercial and public areas simply to show that they could“.
Flash mobs have since become a popular activity across the globe with all kinds of an apparently spontaneous group activity in a public place causing surprise and amusement amongst its viewers. Most of the flash mob events are captured on video and posted on YouTube.
Flash mobs are certainly a 21st century phenomenon because while they don’t happen online they are often initiated and organised using social media, viral emails, or websites in general. Typically the organizers set up a website, mailing list, and/or a viral message that provides all necessary instructions for potential participants. This includes the date, time, and meeting point in the real world. A YouTube link to a video of the dance moves or actions to be performed usually accompanies the instructions. Sometimes an optional rehearsal is organised before the big day.
The term “flash mob” is not supposed to be used to describe “organised” events created by PR firms as publicity stunts or advertisement – these are supposed to be called “smart mobs” because they are well-planned and rehearsed.
They are usually a brief dance where the participants, usually a fairly large group, gather loosely at a public place to perform the moves they have rehearsed. Usually an introductory bit of music is played to signal the start of the event and one person starts the “dance”. A few more join him as if unplanned and then bit by bit more participants join. At the end of the dance, participants stop abruptly and disperse rapidly in different directions and mill with the crowd. And life goes on as if it never happened.
Whatever it is, the term that is commonly used today is flash mob and I haven’t heard the term smart mob used at all.
I’ve read about flash mobs happening all over the world but I have yet to find myself in the middle of a live flash mob anywhere in the world! On land or at sea. While on a Caribbean cruise on the Allure of the Seas in 2011, we had a ball participating in several sessions of training for a flash mob. Disappointingly, we had to miss participating in the actual flash mob event because of conflicting appointments we couldn’t avoid! We managed to see the last 30 seconds or so of the flash mob event.
And because of the conservative Kuwaiti culture I certainly did not expect there to be any chance of seeing a flash mob in Kuwait so I never thought I’d miss the opportunity to witness one here.
But I did! First flash mob ever in Kuwait, and I missed it.
Worse still we had been right there in the Avenues Mall that day having our usual Friday lunch, doing a little bit of window- and real shopping followed by food-shopping. Much, much worse, the event had been sponsored by the company hubby works for, Zain Kuwait!
In fact we had passed by the exact spot where the flash mob had been held and hubby pointed out someone near the Zain kiosk to me. He had told me that that was the lady from Zain’s corporate PR department whom I had been dealing with in a charity project some time back. He never suspected there was any promotional activity going on. When I showed him a video of the flash mob someone had posted on Facebook he exclaimed, “So that was why she was there!”
I was really upset that we missed it but that didn’t mean I couldn’t blog about it. LOL I believe the event had been organised as part of the “Hala February” celebrations that are held every year in the month of February which is the month Kuwaitis celebrate their National Day and Liberation Day.
I was impressed when I saw the video – it was the real thing. A flash mob like any other I had seen on various YouTube videos. Except, notice that its a men-only flash mob. In fact, one of the Kuwait bloggers who wrote about the event wondered what the reaction among conservative Kuwaitis would have been had some women spontaneously joined in the dancing.
A flash mob event to look forward to this year is the Worldwide Flash Mob “Thrill The World”, a tribute to Michael Jackson which will be held in countries around the world on Saturday, October 27th, 2012. This event has been held since 2006 on the weekend before Halloween and this year the organisers will attempt to break a Guinness World Record.
It will be interesting to see Kuwait participating now that the ice is broken.