Your humble correspondent dances disco-style at the beginning of the Love Mob (photo from the Facebook group)
I do like fun. And as long as an event has that as its primary goal, I’m all for it. Even if it’s a tired formula like a choreographed dance or a lip dub.
On Sunday, I played hookey from PodCamp to participate in an event called “Love Mob Montreal“. Not crazy about the name, but maybe that’s just because I’m not in touch with my emotional side. As I mentioned in the previous post, it was an MP3 experiment that made sense to everyone with headphones but no sense to all the bystanders without.
Police officers monitor a "flash mob" protest on St. Jacques St.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know my opinion on so-called “flash mobs”. The term is poorly defined (mostly because the groups most associated with the term find it demeaning and refuse to describe themselves that way), but most people seem to have settled on the definition of a bunch of strangers meeting in a public place, doing something strange and then leaving.
That “something strange” is open to debate. In some cases, it’s harmless fun for fun’s sake. In others, it’s a highly-choreographed stunt. I wouldn’t really describe every seemingly spontaneous public performance as a flash mob, but as long as people are having fun I’m not going to complain.
My issue is that, because “flash mob” is popular among youth, various groups with agendas are trying to use it to their advantage. In some cases, the intentions are honorable, like fighting cancer. But it’s also been used to promote beer, or create “viral videos” to drum up interest in some convoluted advertising campaign.
Now, it seems, it’s also being abused for political activism.
After following various events that have been referred to as flash mobs in the media, it’s hard not to concur, if only because the term has been used to define almost any public gathering of strangers organized online.
Most events of this nature can be split into one of two groups:
the Improv Everywhere-style stunts in which people who may or may not know each other get together and pull a prank on unsuspecting bystanders in a public place
A PR stunt for cancer prevention, which I’m all for and everything, but a PR stunt nonetheless.
What bugs me most is that this was organized through a “flash mob” Facebook group which was taken over by a marketing company without its members’ permission. I suppose it’s not the end of the world. People can just remove themselves from the group if they don’t like it. And who’s going to oppose a public event for cancer awareness?
But it’s an example of grassroots fun being usurped by corporate interests. Instead of “flash mobs”, they’re now “street marketing” events. Yesterday, it was a yellow-scarfed song for cancer research. Will the next one be shilling for Doritos? Will commuters have to live in fear every day they go to work because they might be forced into some ill-conceived marketing stunt in which they’ve been made the sucker?
Corporatization of fun: Friendly game of tag, or an ad for Orange Crush?
As an observer of society, I belong to some Facebook groups that may or may not turn into things. One of them was a generic flashmob group, which had hopes of organizing something fun at some point, but never actually did so.
Today I get an email from the group, which has been taken over by a “street marketing company” with big ambitions:
Objet : Hi flashmobers !
I am taking in charge your group.
My name is Ludovic and I am working in Trako Media, a street marketing company. We want to create an EVENT. A giant EVENT with thousands of flashmobers. We are already planning some future events where we would like everybody to activly participate. We gonna work full days and weeks to make it better than any other one in any other town.
Montreal is full of enthousiastic people who love having FUN.
We are already 46 members. Can you send invitation to your friends ? Talk to others ? Print and pomote the group on school or university walls ?
We need 1000 flashmobers for the first offical Flash Mob. Don’t worry, I’m sure you ‘ll like our ideas :D
So let’s start and feel free to message me !
Sorry for my english :P Je parle un peu mieux français…
Maybe I’m just picky, but nothing kills the spirit of a flashmob than having it be organized by a marketing company, which will no doubt have some commercial motivation behind such events.
A group of local Improv-Everywhere-style scene-causers is planning a mock gun fight (Facebook link) on St. Laurent at Prince Arthur at 7pm on Saturday (exact location isn’t being divulged yet because of NARC-ism concerns meeting at Prince Arthur and Coloniale).
The event is purposefully taking place in the middle of the Main Madness street sale. I’m sure no problems will arise from people yelling “bang” and randomly falling down in the middle of a crowded street.
Clear your calendars for April 26, 10:30pm. That’s when the next chapter of Montreal’s flash mob history takes place: A “silent disco” “silent dance party”, where people stand around listening to music on headphones and dancing to it.
When one person does that, it’s annoying and/or funny. When dozens do it, it’s a scene and/or pathetic.
Like the freeze in February, this one will take place around the big puck at the mezzanine level of Berri-UQAM metro.