Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Civil disobedience and the excitable crowd

Postmortem analyses of crowding disasters have shown that the pressure of throbbing mobs can bend steel girders and push over brick walls.

Christian Nold's Mobile Vulgus: turning the crowd itself into an oppositional tool and reclaiming the mobility of the crowd as a physical force for change.

Using police strategies and crowd simulations to inspire protest tactics, Nold relies on the excitability of crowds and offers tools for civil disobedience including sonic vibration for material disturbance.

Brings to mind Canetti's brilliant account of Crowds and Power:

"The crowd is open so long as its growth is not impeded; it is closed when its growth is limited… The stagnating crowd lives for its discharge… the process here starts not with equality but with density… In the rhythmic crowd… density and equality coincide from the beginning. Everything here depends on movement."

The rhythmic, or throbbing crowd is characterised by a specific state of communal excitement: "the means of achieving this state was first of all the rhythm of their feet, repeating and multiplied," not moving, but gathering intensity at one place and creating frenzy.

More than flash mobs and redefining smart mobs.


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