The need to connect with others sometimes shows itself in ways that are out of the ordinary.
Flash mobs are a recent phenomenon that is spreading throughout the world. A sociological perspective helps us to understand flash mobs and to recognize their purpose in society.
Through the scientific method of research, we can systematically approach the obscurity of flash mobs. The scientific method has been outlined in order to conduct effective research.
Sociological Perspective on Flash Mobs
Something strange is happening in cities around the world. Large groups of people suddenly gather at a predetermined location at a predetermined time. The crowd performs some sort of coordinated activity according to a written script and then quickly disperses. These events have been given the name "flash mobs". Some people view flash mobs as performance art, while others see it as a social outlet. Authorities are quick to see the potential hazards of flash mobs, as a large group with no security is a hotbed for riots. Regardless of how they are viewed by society, these mysterious flash mobs continue to gain popularity and each sighting is bigger than the last.
Flash mobs are a social phenomenon that could be researched from a sociological perspective. In the following paper, a study of flash mobs is outlined using the scientific method.
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In May of 2003 more than 100 people gathered around a rug in the Macy’s department store in New York City. They all claimed to live together in a warehouse in Queens and were interested in buying the rug. Just as the salesperson started to believe them, the crowd dissipated. This was the first flash mob. Participants were a part of an elite email list and were asked to gather in advance and only then were handed further instructions detailing the Macy’s target. Today, flash mobs are much larger and less elite. Anyone who comes across an invitation is welcomed. As we research flash mobs from a sociological perspective, we first define the problem. Flash mobs have their purpose in society and could be potentially dangerous. The objective of this outlined method of approaching these issues is to understand flash mobs and to identify their purpose.
Continuing to the next step of the scientic method, we review the liturature that is relevant to the study of flash mobs. One important piece of information is contained in the United States Constitution. The first Amendment of the Bill of Right states that "Congress shall make no law – prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of – the right of the people peaceably to assemble" (U.S. Constitution, 1789). Flash mobs are a relatively new phenomenon, with their first recorded event in May of 2003. However, the concept of staged group pranks does have a history. In an article by Leander Kahney, an author for Wired News, he notes, "these kinds of semi-anarchic gatherings have roots that go at least as far back as the late 1970s’ (Kahney, 2003). After reviewing the relevent literature, we clearly see that while flash mobs remain a peaceful gathering, they are not concidered a threat by the government.
We live in the Information Age. Flash mobs are concieved mainly through email. Email is one of the many tools that is easily available to us through modern technology. We have instant access to almost everyone on the planet. All throughout the Internet, there are virtual societies. However, there is still a need for personal connection. In an interview with Joe Zazuetu, as 28-year old Web developer, he claimed that "community has always been a big buzzword in the Web space, and I think the [flash] mob concept helps to bring the virtual community into real space. No matter how good our devices become at allowing us to communicate, I think we’re always going to need some real face time with folks" (Kahney, 2003). Flash mobs demonstrate the power of technogy. In this scientific approach to examining flash mobs, the independent variable is the increasing power of technology, while the dependent variable is demonstration of that power. This outline hypothesizes that technological advancments in communication lead to more social demonstrations of self expression.
In order to test this hypothesis, data needs to be collected and analyzed. Flash mobs are inexplicable to non-participants, therefore observing them as an outsider would be like photographing lightning. Because of their popularity, flash mob participants are less anonymous than in May of 2003. Random sample interviews with flash mobbers would be the most effective research design.
In conclusion, flash mobs are a strange social phenomenon that is understandably contagious. By examining these occurrences from a sociological perspective, we see that participants satisfy a need to make a human connection with a virtual society. By remaining within the limits of our cultural and formal norms, flash mobs do not pose a threat to anyone. They are healthy gatherings of hundreds of strangers to demonstrate what is possible with the technology that is available. Through the scientific method of research, even flash mobs can be understood.
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