by Marty Silk in New Trends on Thursday 26 June 2008

In a world steered by trends, it’s easy for individuals to be consumed by the norm. But there are few creative groups pioneering a new style of non-conformist mobilization. They are known as a ‘flash mobbers’. A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public space, perform an unusual action (usually freezing in motion) for a brief time, and then quickly disperse.
Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, created the first flash mobs in America at the turn of this century as a social experiment to highlight the atmosphere of cultural conformity and to poke fun at those wanting to be an ‘insider’.

No-longer used to poke fun at its own participants, the flash mob has turned on the masses. Flash mobs have been appeared everywhere from Beirut to Boston, and from Stockholm to Shanghai, and on the 24th of June this year, in Sydney.

On that date, over 1000 flash mobbers assembled to synchronize watches before taking positions at the staging point. The young and the old, those in hoodies and suits, large groups and solo performers; they all took Pitt St. Mall and Martin Place by surprise. Crowds of city workers looked on in confusion as their common surroundings froze in time.

But apart from being just a prank, flash mobs laugh at our conformity by showcasing the general public as oblivious. The confused public are forced to both comprehend that they have been taken by surprise, and also that the mimes are reflections of their own daily conformity.

‘A city of anarchy is a city of promise’, says the American novelist, Mark Helprin. And after seeing the response of Sydney to the flash mob, I’d have to agree.