By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

Flash Mob/Prankster

Since the proliferation of the internet, great debates have been made upon the remaining power of physical space in civic and political engagement. But what the global protests and occupations of 2011 have proven is the remaining central importance of face-to-face community building and the direct intervention into centralized public places. On a smaller scale, flash mobs and public pranksterism provide similar tactics of disrupting the everyday habits and happenings of public spaces. Through large choreographed actions or absurdist costumes, these tactics create a public performance and spectacle that draw a crowd and deliver a message. Nevertheless, the role of documenting and distributing photo and video of these performances are vital to expanding the reach of their message and inspiring similar actions in others.

Flash mobs have been used by a number of organizations and issues, ranging from environmentalism, free political prisoners movements, and issues of corporate wrongdoings.  The "One People" flashmob by Occupy San Francisco/Oakland was a staged performance that illustrates the "one percent's" inevitable isolation caused by systematically alienating the rest of the population.  The initial performance itself involved a couple hundred people, including onlookers, but then went viral, gathering thousands of views as well as being remixed to incorporate additional global protest footage.

The Yes Men and their films are a quintessential example of modern political pranksterism. They're pranks often involve spectacles of absurdist claims and outrageous costumes. But what's more striking is their ability to perform these pranks within spaces that are reserved for the corporate or political elite. They play the part of corporate representatives and go on live television interviews or give keynote speeches at conferences in order to expose the more nefarious sides of the companies that they're pretending to represent. The results of these acts have sometimes caused major publicity or financial scandals for those companies.  

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