Project #39211 - WEB 2.0: 2001-NOW

It is a truism in the study of human technology that any tool that makes it into the public's attention will eventually be used for purposes entirely unforeseen by its inventor(s) and probably contrary to the general public interest. This is certainly been the case with the information technologies going up around and with the Internet. E-mail is great, but spam isn't. Online video of the grandkids is wonderful; online pornography accessible to little Johnny, not so much. Despite much breastbeating, it's really very difficult to have the good without the bad -- and even differentiating the good from the bad is often a matter of opinion. As Miles' Law says, where you stand depends upon where you sit.

In the past couple of years, we have become so saturated with and dependent upon social media such as Facebook and Twitter that we haven't always noticed the potential Dark Side -- most specifically, the ability to use these tools not only to connect individuals in cyberspace but to mobilize groups for action in the Real World. There's a phenomenon of relatively recent -- or at least reinvented -- origin, called the "flash mob" -- defined most generally as a group of people voluntarily assembled at a particular place and time for a particular purpose, coordinated through shared access to social media. These aren't altogether a new invention -- the phone and before that, the telegraph, and before that, a good strong voice have been tools used to assemble flash mobs in the past. But what's been recently discovered is how easy it is to do so using modern social media, and how effective such mobs can be.

As we said, whether or not you consider this to be a good development or a bad development depends a lot on how you evaluate the purpose of the mob. Public assemblies to install democracy in an authoritarian state sound pretty good; assembling gang members to break windows and burn cars wouldn't strike most of us as all that great. Here's a sampling of different points of view on this general subject:

Tavoulareas, E. (2011, August 22). Social media: The Jekyll & Hyde of media? Changemakers. Retrieved from

Goodman, J. (2011, August 17). Debate over social media incitement as flash mobs strike. The Lede: Blogging the News. New York Times. Retrieved from

Brennan, E. (2011, August 19). Flash Mobs – The dark side of social media revealed. Retrieved from

Lum, R. (2011) Spreading the happiness one flash mob at a time. CreativeGuerillaMarketing. Retrieved from

Optional Reading

Kelly, L. (2011, March 22). Advertising with flash mobs. JSNCafe. Retrieved from

Heaney, F. (n.d.) The short life of flash mobs. Stay Free!. Retrieved from

The Economist. (2006, August 29). Shop affronts: Chinese consumers are ganging up on their retailers. Retrieved from

This last article is notable particularly for a comment reaching new levels of cluelessness, to wit:

“'This is not what social media was designed to accomplish', states Ken Wisnefski, who was recently interviewed on FOX News discussing cyber security. 'At WebiMax, we build social media campaigns for our clients to increase their brand awareness and develop additional revenue streams. The organizing of ‘flash mobs’ in Philadelphia demonstrates the capabilities of the misuse of one of the most powerful mass-communications tools in the 21st century.'”

In other words, "It's perfectly all right for us to use this tool to sell you stuff, but how dare you think of using it for any other purpose?" Mr. Wisnefski has obviously missed the entire point of Web 2.0 -- that is, user participation, user generation of content, and interactivity. There's no stuffing that particular genie back in the bottle.

Once you've read these short articles on flash mobs, you'll probably want to do some additional Internet research of your own looking into other aspects of this phenomenon and other kinds of areas where they have occurred. When you feel you have a good handle on the idea, you'll be in a position to write a short (3-5) page paper on the topic:

“What ought to be done about “flash mobs”, and by whom? Why?”

Assignment Expectations

Your paper should be between 2-4 pages. Take a definite stand on the issues, and develop your supporting argument carefully. Using material from the background information and any other sources you can find to support specific points in your argument is highly recommended; try to avoid making assertions for which you can find no support other than your own opinion.

Be sure to provide proper citations for any material you reference from other sources! Please be guided by the TUI Guidelines cited in the background information for help in structuring and developing your paper.

You will be particularly assessed on:

       Your ability to see what the module is all about and to structure your paper accordingly.

       Your informed commentary and analysis -- simply repeating what your sources say does not constitute an adequate paper.

Your ability to draw on a range of sources, and to establish your understanding of the historical context of the question

Subject Computer
Due By (Pacific Time) 09/06/2014 05:30 pm
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