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'Tis the season for flash mobs, you say? They're just getting started.

This year's delightful run of flash mobs is winding up with a flurry of Santas and carolers. But the phenomenon is so well suited to modern society and technology, it should last a while.

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And of course, she adds, the real cultural purpose of holidays is to celebrate common humanity, so flash mobbing our way through the holidays is a perfect way for this generation to do what countless before have done, she says, namely “see and be seen.”

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For those who don’t like the connotation of “mob” activities, Alexander Halavais, associate professor of communications at Quinnipiac University, offers a few more tongue-in-cheek monikers. How about “metaphysical hooligans” or “vandals of the established order?” All of which hint at a certain subversive quality, he says with a laugh.

“The activities are absolutely designed to shake up the way people see things,” he says, “but in a good way.” There is no question that the law of unintended consequences dictates that when a massive unplanned gathering of humanity descends on a public space, such as the London tube where the mass waltzing brought trains to a halt, there will be problems.

“When you shake things up, things will sometimes get broken,” he says. But by and large, the flash mobs that are generating the kind of viral video traffic worldwide are intended as a gift. “This is the gift of surprise and delight,” he adds.

Trend is upward

Expect more, not less, in coming months and years. As the digital tools for organizing and focusing human behavior only get more refined, the events will become more sophisticated and purposeful. “Events on a global scale like this, not too long ago, would have required a military kind of precision to bring off,” says Mr. Halavais.

Also, expect to see the flash mob mentality begin to merge with the performance art world to produce events with both spontaneous turnout and highly refined political and artistic messages.

Ms. Martin points to the artists who marched on the Tate museum in London earlier this year. When activists got wind of the museum’s relationship with BP after the Gulf oil spill, they hauled buckets of a gooey, black substance to pour on the front steps of the institution. This too was duly recorded as it happened and then sent around the digital world in seconds as participants uploaded their videos to the Internet.

“It was the perfect mix of flash mob action with purposeful message,” she says.

IN PICTURES: Flash Mobs

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