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Social networking mashup

I had my first experience of a flash-mob last night. My daughter had received a forwarded text message (SMS) advising that a bunch of people might well be meeting up on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London for a short dance party at precisely 6.46pm.

I tagged along and arriving a few minutes early noticed that there was an increasing number of people standing and strolling around, just like people do – tourists, office workers, etc. Quite a few had iPods plugged into their ears. Again, this is totally normal.

Very mobile discoMore people kept arriving. At a few seconds to 6.46, a countdown was started then, at zero, almost everyone turned up their music and started dancing (OK, we did too). A great and enthusiastic time was had by all then 30 minutes later the party dissolved again.

A few tourists were left looking rather bemused by the best part of 1000 people dancing to the apparent silence.

What particularly interests me is the mashup of social networking going on here:

  • the mix of electronic viral connections through the phones, Skype, MySpace, sites such as www.dontstayin.com and word of mouth,
  • the fact that real people actually came together in one location for a communal activity (and the synchronisation of the start was an important element),
  • the almost complete lack of direct face-to-face communication (everyone having ear-buds jammed in their heads),
  • the fact that everyone was dancing, as much “together” as they would be in a club, but to their own chosen tune,
  • the way that the mob evaporated away at the end
  • by 11 today (16 hours later) there are 773 pictures of the event at: http://www.dontstayin.com/uk/london/st-pauls-cathedral/2007/jul/19/event-131750

I wonder what parallels and lessons it holds for us about how we might engage people in collaborative learning and how we connect with each other in the 21st century.

PS. It transpires that this was one of three simultaneous events in Brighton (St Peter’s Church), London (St Paul’s) and Sheffield (St Mary’s) … Peter, Paul and Mary!

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