A smart mob
is a form of self-structuring social
organization through technology-mediated, intelligent emergent
behavior. The concept was introduced by Howard Rheingold
in his book Smart Mobs: The Next
. According to Rheingold, smart mobs are
an indication of the evolving communication technologies that will
empower the people. In 2002, the "smart mob" concept was
highlighted in the New York
"Year in Ideas."
These growing technologies include the Internet
such as Internet
, and wireless
and personal digital assistants
Methodologies like peer to peer
networks and pervasive computing
are also changing the ways in which people organize and share
A smart mob is a group that, contrary to the usual connotations of
, behaves intelligently or efficiently
because of its exponentially increasing network links. This network
enables people to connect to information and others, allowing a
form of social coordination. Parallels are made to, for instance,
One reason for the rise of smart mobs is the ever decreasing cost
of increasingly powerful microprocessors which have allowed them to
permeate throughout society — they are embedded in everything from
boxes to clothes. Depending on how the technology is used, smart
mobs may be beneficial or detrimental to society. Rheingold warns
of the use of the technology by some to create a society similar to
the one seen in George Orwell
or by terrorists
for their malicious purposes.
Smart Mobs are sometimes manipulated by the dispatchers
who control the 'mobbing system' (ie,
those who own the contact list and the means to forward instant
messages to a group) and induced to cause distress and aggravation
to individuals who have been targeted or singled out for whatever
There is a tendency to keep the dynamics of smart mobbing 'covert',
and not to discuss such incidents on the internet.
According to CNN
, the first smart mobs were
teenage "thumb tribes" in Tokyo and Helsinki who used text messaging
to organize impromptu raves
stalk celebrities. For instance, in Tokyo, crowds of teenage fans
would assemble seemingly spontaneously at subway stops where a rock
musician was rumored to be headed.
Philippines in 2001, a group of protesters organized via text
messaging gathered at the EDSA Shrine, the site of the 1986
revolution that overthrew Ferdinand
Marcos, to protest the corruption of President Joseph Estrada.
The protest grew
quickly, and Estrada was soon removed from office.
The Critical Mass
dating back to 1992, are also sometimes compared to smart mobs, due
to their self-organizing manner of assembly.
Relation to flash mobs
are a specific form of smart
mob, originally describing a group of people who assemble suddenly
in a public place, do something unusual for a brief period of time,
then quickly disperse. The term flash mob
is claimed to
have been inspired by "smart mob". Since its inception, however,
"flash mob" has been used by news media and promoters to refer to
nearly any form of smart mob.
Essentially, the smart mob is a practical implementation of
According to Rheingold, examples of smart mobs are the street
protests organized by the anti-globalization movement
Free State Project
described in Foreign Policy
as an example of potential "smart mob
". Other examples of smart mobs include:
- Smart mobs who arrange the meet up over the Internet and show
up at a retailer at a specific time and use their number to
negotiate a discount with the retailer.
- eBay — a collection of users who are
empowered by the Internet and eBay to buy and sell and maintain the
quality control over all transactions through the rating system.
People can leave positive, negative or neutral feedback, depending
on how they felt about their transaction with that seller.
- Text messages
that were sent in the Philippines, which are thought to be partly responsible for the
demonstration that ousted former President Joseph Estrada. Examples of such a
text message read "Wear black to mourn the death of democracy",
"Expect there to be rumbles" and "Go to EDSA".
- The 2005 civil unrest in
France exhibited smart mobs - the French national police
spokesman, Patrick Hamon, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that
youths, mainly those of the Muslim faith, in individual
neighborhoods were communicating by cellphone text messages, online
blogs, and/or email — arranging meetings and warning each other
about police operations.
July 5th 2005, during U2's performance of the
song New Year's Day at a stadium in Chorzów, Poland, the
audience of 70,000 waved colored articles of clothing to form a
giant Polish flag of white and red: fans on the pitch waved red,
those in the bleachers waved white. This behavior was
coordinated by fans communicating on the Internet.
have begun to have an impact in current events, as mobile phones
and text messages have empowered everyone from revolutionaries in
individuals protesting the second Iraq
November 6th 2008, more than 500 students across Taiwan began a
sit-in protest in front of the Executive Yuan. Known as the Wild Strawberry Students
Movement 野草莓學運, this assembly was mobilised overnight
with the help of an on-line Bulletin Board System (BBS). The
students were equipped with mobile technology such as HSDPA (high
speed download packet access) and web-cameras. They soon set up a
live broadcast that aired for 24 hours a day over the internet for
more than a week, and they used mobile devices to keep up to date
with government reactions on the mass media. One of the main themes
of the protest was for amendment of the Assembly and Parade Law
that curbed freedom of expression: this demand earned support from
various non-government organizations nationwide.
Individuals who have divergent worldviews and
methods have been able to coordinate short-term goals thanks to
The comic book Global
, written by Warren
, describes a covert, non-governmental intelligence
organization built around a smart mob of people that are called on
to provide individual expertise in solving extraordinary
Smart mobs can also be organized to congregate simultaneously at
multiple locations. Usually used to attract media attention and
spread awareness of a cause, distributed mobs were used effectively
in the 2005 civil unrest in France. Distributed mobs were also used
in Project Chanology
, an ongoing
protest against Scientology
. On a larger
scale, a "World Wide Flash Mob" is being organized around Geocaching
and aims to be the largest distributed
mob to date.
- "Day of the smart mobs", CNN
- "Dadaist lunacy or the future of protest?", Social
Issues Research Center
- "Flash! Mobs in the Age of Mobile Connectivity"
Fibreculture Journal, issue 6
- flash mob, WordSpy.com