Questions for Bill Wasik’s “My Crowd Experiment: The Mob Project”.

1.) Marginal Comments: Where can they lead?

Pg 480 “The mob was all about the herd instinct, I reasoned, about the desire not to be left out of the latest fad…”

Pg 482 ” ‘bandwagon effect’: the instinctive tendency of the human animal to rely on the actions of others in choosing its own course of action. We get interested in the things we see others getting interested in.”

Pgs 488-489 “What viral culture adds is, in part, just pure acceleration – the speed born of more data sources, more frequent updates, more churn…”


On page 480, I decided to hone in on the phrase, “desire not to be left out of the latest fad.” This desire, Wasik notes, seems to stem from the primal herd instinct where humans would stick with the group and do whatever the group did in order to survive. I noted, however, that the desire  not to be left out of the latest fad seems to differ slightly from the primal side of this instinct. Rather than sticking with the herd for survival, the herd instinct today presents itself as not wanting to be considered an “outsider” for social purposes. The internet, I argued in my annotation, is exacerbating this new version of this primal instinct in many people. Rather than using the internet as a tool for meaning making or pursuing purpose, people are using it to fit in. The internet is increasing anxiety/FOMO (fear of missing out) in people.  Essentially, the internet is taking away from meaning making and purpose pursuing, which is meant to be highly individualized, because it is instead leading people to stick with the group/not branch out.

On page 482, I touched again on the topic of the “bandwagon effect” and the “herd instinct”. Wasik says  that we, as people, “get interested in the things we see others getting interested in”. I noted that, since people like Wasik know that this bandwagon effect is a natural instinct in people, why wouldn’t he, and others like him, use this knowledge to encourage people to jump on productive and/or meaningful bandwagons?  Wasik uses the internet and this knowledge of bandwagoning to get hundreds of people to participate in seemingly useless/purposeless flash mobs. Seems as though he could have used the internet more wisely to get people to join a common and important cause. Is it that the internet can’t be used for meaning making/purpose finding or that people just don’t want to use it in this way?

On pages 488-499, I discussed the relationship between the internet and meaning making. According to Wasik in this passage, viral culture is all about spreading ideas quickly. In today’s world,  this lightning speed spread of ideas is made possibly by the internet/technology/online. I had noted that this immense speed of technology is killing any chance of meaning making because meaning making is something that takes time, patience, thoughtfulness and attention, all qualities that the speed of the internet and our current tech culture does not allow for. This “pure acceleration”, is constantly feeding us “more data sources, more frequent updates, more churn,”  and, because of this, is contributing greatly to our distraction as a species and never truly allowing us to focus our attention long enough to make meaning out of anything. Wasik provides evidence that technology is the culprit behind the distraction that is leading us away from meaning making when he says on page 475 that, “my idle stretches have been erased by the grace of the Internet, with its soothingly fast and infinitely available distractions, engaging me for hours on end without assuaging my fundamental boredom in any way.”  Wasik states on page 488 that,  “the sense, that is, that nothing we attend to is adequate, precisely because nothing can escape the roiling scorn of our distraction,” is a concept directly related to technology’s presence in our lives.


2.) Reading with purpose

The internet extends Bill Wasik in the sense that it allows him, in ways probably not possible without the internet, to connect with a large number of people. Wasik is able to use e-mail, an internet application, to send messages directly to unknown people regarding specifics for the flashmob such as where he wanted them to gather, when he wanted them to gather, and what he wanted them do once they got there.  In essence, Wasik used the internet as a tool to actualize a plan that was initiated solely to “satiate” his boredom rather than serve an actual, meaningful purpose.

I do not believe that the internet extended Bill Wasik in an existential or important way that could possibly, “change the course of history” or “change humans themselves.” In my opinion, “the only way to truly change the course of history and quite possibly change humans, themselves”,  is through tools that deepen human connection and understanding. I do not believe Wasik’s use of the internet for the flash mob project accomplished either of these goals. In reality, Wasik never even really connected with any of the people he gathered for these flash mobs. Not in a meaningful way. This becomes evident on page 481, where Fox News interviews some of the flash mobbers themselves. When asked about whether they knew Bill, the man who had orchestrated these flash mobs, both mobbers said no, Mobber two going as far as to say, “Well, from what I’ve read, he’s a – he works in the culture industry, and that’s – that’s about as specific as we’ve gotten with him.” The fact that Wasik made little to no connection with any of the mobbers speaks volumes about the internet as a tool for actualizing potential. In my opinion, Wasik used the internet solely to see if it would carry out his plan, which it did; however, in regards to Wasik’s project, the internet served no meaningful purpose.  Therefore, at least in regards to Wasik’s work, the internet did not serve as a tool for any evident meaning making or purpose finding.


3.) Reading with purpose

I would argue that Bill Wasik’s work pursues a meaningless, inconsequential purpose and, for that reason, does not pursue meaning overall. The purpose I think Wasik was pursuing in his work with the flash mob project was simply to see if he would be able to bend the internet to his will. To test this theory, he used the internet as a tool to get large amounts of people to do what he wanted them to do. What it was that he wanted them to do ( gather in one place at one time to all perform the same, meaningless activity in unison) however, served no purpose for anyone involved besides Wasik and, for Wasik, the only purpose the flash mobs served was to try to cure his boredom and verify his theory. Wasik notes on page 475, however, that the internet does not cure boredom but rather distracts people from it with its endless applications and possibilities. So, it seems as though his only purpose for the Flash Mob Project was to test and see if he could use the internet as a tool to puppeteer those around him.

I suppose it is possible that Wasik could have been trying to prove, in a roundabout, satirical way, the lack of meaning and purpose that the internet provides to human kind. By demonstrating the pointlessness of these flash mobs, which are a direct creation of the internet, Wasik highlighted how in today’s world, the internet makes it impossible for anyone to pursue meaning and purpose. Instead, people use the internet for useless reasons like creating flash mobs and to distracting themselves from their own boredom, procrastination and laziness.

If Wasik’s intention was to show that the internet is the farthest thing from a tool that should be used for meaning making and purpose finding, I think he accomplished his goal 100%. Him saying that “The point of the show (flash mob) would be no show at all,” epitomized the meaninglessness that he pursued in the flash mob project.






1 Comment

  1. Elisha M Emerson

    I think it’s lovely that you evaluated Wasik and the lack of connection he made with the people he gathered. You also do such an excellent job of using this space to mix visuals with text. Great work!

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