Originally, flash mobs were intended to baffle, amaze and amuse. These days, they're formed for various reasons, from downright silly to deadly serious. Here are just a few of the different types of flash mobs and flash-mob inspired events taking place today:
- Flash celebrations: Whether it's a gigantic pillow fight in Vancouver or a silent disco in London, flash mobs of this type stay true to the no-agenda, "appear and disappear" modus operandi of Bill Wasik's original flash mobs. Crowds of synchronized strangers appear at an appointed time and place, and for a few blissful minutes, their antics entrance onlookers.
- Random acts of culture: The brainchild of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, "Random Acts of Culture" is a flash-mob-inspired arts initiative that gifts inspiring pop-up performances to local communities. One of the most talked about RAOC was a surprise, six-minute performance by more than 650 Philadelphia area choristers, who burst into Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at a local Macy's department store [source: Kino].
- Marketing mobs: Taking note of the number of YouTube hits and water cooler discussions flash mob performances were generating, it was only a matter of time before savvy advertising executives co-opted the art form for marketing purposes. In 2009, T-Mobile staged a choreographed dance medley in the London Underground, which the company filmed and later used in advertisements [source: The Week].
- Flash politics: Similarly, causes ranging from anti-abortion to antismoking have adopted the flash mob as a way to mobilize members and generate media attention for their platforms.
- Urban pranksters: New York City group Improv Everywhere has been performing sophisticated "urban pranks" since 2001. Some of their pranks possess decidedly flash-moblike characteristics. For instance, in January 2011, thousands of pranksters in dozens of cities around the globe stripped off their trousers to participate in a coordinated "No Pants Subway Ride" [source: Improv Everywhere].
Whether they're sponsored by a soda company or performed for the sheer joy of it, participating in a flash mob is fun. Find out how to unearth these underground escapades in the next section.