"The Medium is the Mob," Media, Culture & Society, 2017. 

Aaron Shapiro


Conventional narratives frame flash mobs as exemplary of the broader changes in politics, culture, and social relations brought on by new media technologies. Missing from these stories is an account of the mob itself. How do we make sense of the mob’s intensities, of the sublime power that emanates from the congregation of bodies together in space, and the ambiguities with which those intensities are received — without reducing these dimensions to the overdetermined power of a new medium? Using a much broader theorization of mediation, I argue that the mob needs to be accounted for as a medium unto itself; that flash mobs present a complex ‘intermedium’ relationship between new media and the mob as a powerful-but-ambiguous social mediation; and that by attributing the apparent this power to new media technologies, we risk undermining the political efficacy of the mob as a political figuration.