This week I’ve been reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. In Chapter 7, “Faster and Faster,” I was introduced to the idea of a flash mob. Awesome stuff.
Basically, a flash mob is “a group that engages in seemingly spontaneous but actually synchronized behavior.” This has been made fairly famous in this ad by T-Mobile:
Here are a couple of other examples of a flash mob in action. In the first video, you’ll see a demonstration by a Fair Trade organization. In the second, you will see a demonstration to increase awareness of a NFL game that was to be played in Europe.
The cool thing about flash mobs is that these demonstrations do not require a centrally organized planning commission or an organization of any type to pull it off. All it requires is a blog post, an email, or a Twitter update notifying a mass public of the time, place, and the form the event will take. Whoever shows up will show up. Whoever brings the appropriate goods and knows the script takes part. All that is needed is a time, place, an intended action, and a cause people believe in. And it is all tied together by social media.
In his chapter, one of Shirky’s examples came from the country of Belarus. Shirky describes the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko in 2006. This event was seen by many there as evidence of corruption. Lukashenko captured a third term in this election with 85% of the vote–many thought this clearly showed the election was rigged. Lukashenko has enjoyed unchecked power since 1994, and many in the populace were unhappy with his rule. The Lukashenko government, however, had sworn to quickly crush any opposition that might rise up following the announced outcome of the election. Demonstrations against this form of government would require creativity.
In May of 2006 someone using the handle by_mob used LiveJournal, a piece of blogging software, to coordinate a flash mob on the fifteenth of that month in Minsk’s Oktyabrskaya Square. The plan was to show up, en masse, and eat ice cream. No central coordination, no guarantee of anyone showing up, but on that date, the police were waiting, and arrested and hauled away those there eating ice cream. This, of course, made the Lukashenko regime look ridiculous. Others who participated stood by, took pictures and video, and quickly uploaded their media to Flickr, LiveJournal, and other outlets to expose the Lukashenko government as absurdly oppressive.
My question: how could churches use social media to organize creative protest–actions of spontaneous yet coordinated community? Where could we show up, en masse, ready to throw a football, celebrate, dance, hand out water, or cry out for justice, with the connection spurring such action being social media tools and word of mouth between peers.
Hey, the possibilities are pretty endless.