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Carlton and the Corporate Flash Mob Arrive at Santana Row

In Culture

Back in 2003, an editor at Harper’s had a titillating and thrilling idea (that’s what people at Harpers do). A gentleman, by the name of Bill Wasik (a familiar if you read Wired Magazine), would organize a group of people who would descend upon an unsuspecting area of Manhattan and do something silly, in unison.  He didn’t have much luck the first time around, but his second try was the absolute genesis for everything henceforth known as a “flash mob.”

Wasik’s original design was a simple mechanism, which involved hundreds of people. His idea was to bring awareness to conformity, and especially to spotlight those individuals who are blind to the fact that utter conformity is part of their idea of individualism.

Wasik’s no dummy, and credit should go to where it’s due.  Also, there should be some kind of margin of respect that implies you shouldn’t take someone’s idea, borrow it’s basic mechanics and then use it for means not intended by the original designer. Sure, that sort of stuff may happen all the time, but most people have the decency to name it something else.

As part of a bigthink interview, Wlasik said, “Part of what I was trying to lampoon with the flash mob was the idea of the next big thing…I’ll tell you what the next big thing is…it’s nothing, let’s all get together for nothing at all.”

It seems that today the idea of the flash mob could be easily made into a “one of these is not like the other” games. It could be explained in two panels, one would be 2003, and the other 2012.  In 2012, flash mobs are not social experiments designed to celebrate the idea of celebrating nothing but each other’s company. These days they have become support-group meeting for various commercial efforts.

T-Mobile and Eurovision are some of the biggest offenders. They have used the term for commercial purposes and have lost sight of the original intention of the idea. Some may say it is an evolution of the idea, but it seems it is a devolution of Waski’s original effort.

The most recent manifestation of this is brought to you by: Body by Vi. This Saturday, Santa Row will host the Body by Vi “flash mob.” It’s just one location used for a national effort. Overall, the company seems to have good intentions at its core. They provide weight-loss solutions, and boast over 1 million members.

What’s irksome is their marketing tactics. Calling an event with corporate backing, utilizing massive marketing campaigns, which span months of development, a “flash mob” is like calling the Olympics a “grass-roots” effort. This “flash mob” also has a dance. It’s based on the “Carlton,” from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” If you’re wondering, you can learn the dance, and it does feature Alfonso Ribeiro as the MC.

If you’re curious, the event begins at noon on Saturday. Santana Row will assuredly be bustling with inconspicuous flash mobbers with Bodies by Vi.

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