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Smart Mobs

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Smart Mobs

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  1. Smart Mobs Brannon Cullum April 6, 2009 MSFS 556

  2. People Power II (EDSA 2), The Philippines, 2001: “Coup d’Text” President Estrada is on impeachment trial for corruption charges. 11 pro-Estrada senators vote against opening damning evidence. Result: Estrada is overthrown, his Vice-President is sworn in Television broadcasts report that Estrada will not be impeached At the highest point, 70 million text messages a DAY were sent Public outrage: Filipinos start sending angry text messages, and share messages to gather at the capital to protest 5 days of protests. Protests are peaceful. Coordination for protests done through SMS. +1 million participate Text: WEAR BLACK TO MOURN THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY. Text: The 11 senators are pigs! S&@t, Estrada is acquitted! Let's do People Power! Pls. pass

  3. Smart Mobs Defined • A peer-to-peer form of self-organizing and coordinating via mobile phones for collective action • Coordination and communication of individuals is enabled by the use of emerging technology, primarily through the use of mobile phones and SMS. • There is a diffusion of leadership and an absence of centralized control. • Presence of loose social networks. • The existence of intelligent self-organization on a large scale. • Individuals are in pursuit of collective action with regards to a cause or goal, primarily political or social goals. • Action occurs off-line, in real time.

  4. How to Smart Mob: Step-by-Step • What you need: a plan, a cell phone, contacts • Determine overall goal/purpose • Figure out the specific act that will help you to achieve your goal, the key being everyone participates at the same exact moment: physically gather at the • Preparations: select location, have contact information for people to invite, use social networking site or micro-blogging site • Set date and time • Fast execution, mass distribution (forward the message!) • Micro-coordination via SMS: forward message to others in your social network • Perform collective action, disperse calmly

  5. Traditional Coordination of a Protest Smart Mob Coordination Central hierarchy coordinates and organizes movement of participants Participants receive instructions from the top down Minimal hierarchy of power Self-organization/Diffusion of power Power located in loose networks of P2P linkages  Collective coordination of independent actors Multi-central nodes of participation Use of innovative and emerging technologies

  6. Mobile Phone Use Worldwide Worldwide, mobile subscribers reached 4.1 billion in early 2009 (ITU), with two-thirds of all mobile phones in use found in developing countries Source: ITU

  7. The Power of the Mobile Phone Mobile phones have “unexpected social potency” Three factors central to use: • Mobility • Personalization • Multimodality

  8. Theoretical Framework • The organized and networked public sphere • Swarm intelligence • Cooperative strategies that enable collective action • Threshold theory of social action • Spreading of memes

  9. Typology of Smart Mobs “Flash mob” honoring artist Tony Hart, Tate Modern, London (2009) • Political activism - Philippines - to protest President (2001), Spain - increase voter participation in elections (2004) • Social activism - Battle of Seattle WTO protests (1999), Ukraine - “Orange Revolution” (2004), Uganda - protest government’s sale of national forest (2007) • Art/Performance art - Flash mobs • For fun/Random - Flash mobs of any and all kinds • Rebellion/Inciting violence - Greek riots (2008), Nigeria - protesting Miss World (2006), Kenya - urging violence against ethnic groups during Presidential election (2008) • Advertising/Marketing - Choreographed dancing smart mobs (2009) “Orange Revolution” protesters in tents, Ukraine (2004) Police at Greek riots, Athens (2008) Pillow fight flash mob, San Francisco (2009)

  10. Flash Mobs Pointless performance or meaningful act? • “Self-organized entertainment” - Rheingold • “The compulsively deconstructed geek-chic game of the summer” - New York Times • “A wasted opportunity” - Tom Sander, Kennedy School of Government

  11. Flash Mobs …or a great marketing and advertising opportunity? Antwerp: Choreographed flash mob dancing to “The Sound of Music” to promote a reality show London: Choreographed flash mob dancing in a rail station, filmed for a T-Mobile commercial

  12. “A smart mob is not necessarily a wise mob.” • There are potential dangers and disadvantages inherent in every smart mob • “Mobs” can get out of control, turn violent • Smart mobs pose challenges for governments and the police • What determines the “success” of a smart mob? G20 protesters break into a Royal Bank of Scotland branch, London (April 2009) The aftermath of deadly riots in Nigeria regarding the Miss World pageant, Abuja (2002)

  13. Why now? • Technological innovations and convergence to facilitate collective action • Developments in SMS services, such as bulk text messages • Micro-blogging • Location awareness, geo-tagging, mashups


  15. Future Trends • Smart mobs and flash mobs still take place • Ground Crew: on-demand crowdsourcing • Micro-blogging: use of Twitter • The Extraordinaires: on-demand volunteerism by mobile phone • Sousveillance, increased possibilities for surveillance and monitoring

  16. Election monitoring, surveillance, and sousveillance “The Great Yawn” on Twitter, 3/31/09