Mobs just want to have fun.

Larry Niven published Flash Crowd in 1972. In that novella, the ability to teletransport creates a situation in which immense crowds of people choose to congregate anywhere something interesting is happening. As is to be expected, this leads to previously unexpected social problems. In today's world, for instance, we generally don't expect thousands of people from different continents to almost simultaneously crash a party that they've suddenly heard is a lively one, and we wouldn't know how to deal with them if they did.

I suppose that what makes Niven's novella science fiction is the fact that he wrote at a time when the technology necessary to create flash crowds still wasn't available. Of course teleportation, if at all feasible, is still far off in the future, but cellular phones for getting the word out make those crowds possible. Could we have joined them before cellular phones? Who thought up the idea, anyway? On Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs site, as a comment to a post that suggests that mobs without politics are much more attractive than mobs with them, one person inquires into what she should do in order to learn about a flash mob:
how do i start a flash mob? can i start one? how do i contact all the people? i dont mean to make this complicated, but id like to be in one, and we dont have anything going on in rockford, IL. thanks!
That question had me scratching my head a bit. Not too long ago, word of mouth seemed to be a pretty effective method of getting information to people. I can well remember hand-drawn posters stapled on to telephone polls that succeeded in getting rather large groups of people to attend parties. Cellulars, without a doubt, helped create the critical mass that made flash mobs into a fad, but well before modern communications technologies, people who wanted to attract a crowd seemed rather adept at finding ways of doing this.

Go to: Is there a point?, or
Go to: Are crowds really that smart?