If you see a group of people dancing and singing on the street or in the railway station, you don’t need to feel surprised. They are a flash mob. Who are they? Are they mobs2? Don’t be confused by their name. Actually, a flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual for a brief period of time, and then quickly disperse.3 They are usually organized with the help of the Internet or other digital communications networks. The messages may be forwarded to friends, who forward to more people.4 At a predetermined time, they gather and perform some distraction such as exchanging books, coming together to look at the sky, waving their hands and yelling something at the top of their lungs for 30 seconds. Then, they quickly disperse before the police can arrive. Using mobile phones, the flash mob can change its venue if the first one has been compromised for any reason.5

Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine , organized the first flash mob in Manhattan in May 2003 and the first successful flash mob assembled on June 3, 2003 (after the initial attempt at a flash mob was foiled) at Macy’s department store.6 More than one hundred people converged upon the ninth floor rug department of Macy’s department store, gathering aroundone particular very expensive rug.7 Following this flash mob, about 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine of the Hyatt hotel in synchronized applause for about fifteen seconds, and next participants pretending to be tourists on a bus trip invaded a shoe boutique in Soho.8 A later mob saw hundreds of people perched on a stone ledge in Central Park making bird noises.9

Wasik claimed that he created flash mobs as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters, and highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of “the next big thing”.10

The inexplicable nature and lack of apparent agenda seems to widen the appeal of flash mobs,11 the silly and harmless activities. Many Web logs, chat rooms and Web groups are devoted to the craze.12 Flash mobs started as pointless stunts,13 but the concept has already developed for the benefit of political and social agendas. Flash mobbing utilizes the efficiency of communicating information on Websites and by email, and protesters can similarly use the “on and off” concept to swarm political events.14

Flash mob gatherings can sometimes shock people. Such an activity might seem amusing and surreal15, but it also might frighten people who are not aware of what is taking place. Undoubtedly, flash mobs can serve as good political tools in any direction. They also have enormous economic potential, such as using flash mobs to advertise a product.

The flash mob is now becoming more and more popular. People use it to do many things. For example, in 2009, Michael Jackson’s fans took part in a flash mob to remember him. Hundreds of his fans gathered outside the railway station in Liverpool. They were singing and dancing Michael’s famous song “Beat It” together. And in another example, some people took part in a flash mob to tell more people not to use negative words. Flash mobs give people from all walks of life an opportunity to come together to create a memory.


1. flash mob: 快闪族,指一群素昧平生的人通过网络、手机短信等约定活动时间、主题和地点,然后一起做出夸张的举动,这种活动的过程通常短到令旁人来不及反应。

2. mob: (成群的)暴民,乱民。

3. assembe: 聚集;disperse: 散开。

4. 短信可能是先发给朋友的,然后再由朋友传递给更多的人。

5. 通过使用手机,快闪族可以在不得已放弃第一个活动场所的情况下迅速更换场地。venne:(事件或活动的)发生地,举办地点。

6. initial: 最初的,最早的;foil: 挫败,受到挫折。

7. converge: 汇集,汇聚;rug: 小块地毯。

8. lobby: 门厅,大厅;mezzanine:(尤指介于一层与二层之间的)中层楼;synchronized: 同步的,同时的; boutique: (女士)时装店,精品店。

9. 随后的一场快闪是几百人(像鸟一样)栖息在中央公园突出来的一块岩石上学鸟叫。perch: 栖息;ledge: 架状突出物,岩石架;Central Park: 中央公园,号称纽约的后花园,是纽约最大的都市公园。

10. Wasik声称他发明快闪是作为一种社会实验,目的在于戏弄赶时髦的年轻人,并凸显(大众)一致性和渴望成为“下一个重大事件”的一部分或参与者的文化氛围。poke fun at: 嘲笑,戏弄;hipster: 赶时髦的人;conformity: 一致,依照。

11. inexplicable: 无法解释的,令人费解的;apparent: 明显的;appeal: 吸引力。

12. 许多网络日志、聊天室和小组都投入到这一场疯狂中来。

13. stunt: 噱头,惊人的表演。

14. 快闪利用了网站和电子邮件交流信息的便利,抗议者也同样可以利用“开始和结束”这样的概念来为政治事件聚集人群。utilize: 利用;protester: 抗议者,反对者;swarm: 云集,涌往。

15. surreal: 超现实的,离奇的。