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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Flash mob strikes mall

    Bystanders on the UA Mall yesterday at 1:53 p.m. received quite a shock when a group of about 40 students stripped down to their underwear for several minutes.

    The seemingly random display of partial nudity was an example of a form of social commentary known as a flash mob.

    Flash mobs are a form of performance art where a large group of people meet in a public place and do something bizarre together for a short period of time, and then disperse.

    Alix Armstrong, a freshman majoring in molecular and cellular biology, participated in the underwear flash mob.

    “”We basically watched the mall stage for three people undressing and proceeded to do the same,”” Armstrong said.

    Armstrong said she heard about the event from a group on Facebook.com and she and her friends decided to participate.

    “”It was an act of defiance. It’s rebellion against the societal pressures of being a college student,”” Armstrong said. “”It’s liberating to be yourself for two minutes.””

    Originally, more than 700 people were confirmed in the Facebook group to participate in the flash mob.

    Randy Allison, a psychology sophomore, also stripped down.

    “”You know, I’m showing off my fantabulous non-tan,”” Allison said. “”I was in the zone. Having a good time.””

    Hundreds of onlookers gawked at the participants, taking pictures and laughing.

    “”It’s to see the reaction of everyone else,”” Allison said. “”It’s finals week. Everybody needs to relax a little and have a little fun.””

    “”It was really fun,”” said Christopher Howard, a pre-business freshman. “”I thought I’d be the only one out here standing in my underwear. I actually changed them today so that’s good.””

    “”Running with a bunch of other half-naked men was the best experience of my life,”” said C.J. Wheelock, a pre-business sophomore. He was part of a group that ran a lap around the stage area.

    “”People are scared to interact with each other. It’s a chance to bond with total strangers,”” Wheelock said.

    Flash mobs are most commonly organized online. Web sites such as the blog www.flashmob.com, the social networking site Facebook.com and improveverywhere.com help organize these mobs.

    The first known flash mob was organized in 2003 by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine in Manhattan. He organized a group of about 100 people via e-mail to gather around a rug in a Macy’s department store and talk to sales associates about purchasing a “”love rug”” for their commune.

    Known at that time only as “”Bill,”” he organized several flash mobs online around New York before revealing himself in 2006 in his article “”My crowd: or, phase 5: a report from the inventor of the flash mob”” published in Harper’s.

    Flash mobs have since spread across the seas and been documented in Europe, Asia and Australia.

    Chris Riegert-Waters, a journalism senior, is coordinating several future flash mobs at the UA.

    “”The point is to shake things up,”” Waters said. “”It starts a dialog.””

    Riegert-Waters participated in both of the recent flash mobs and wants to change the way they are organized to encourage more participation, and less people knowing about it beforehand.

    “”Facebook means everybody knows what’s going to happen,”” he said. “”It needs to be a surprise.””

    He said he is a flash mob fan, and looks to schools like the University of Texas that have pulled off several successful large-scale flash mobs.

    “”Life can be really boring,”” Riegert-Waters said. “”It takes you away from the monotony.””

    Yesterday’s flash mob was the second in a string of flash mob activity stirring at the UA. Last week, students froze like statues outside the Student Union Memorial Center. Watch out today for a horde of zombies running through the union.

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