01 March 2006

Connected? Yes. But is it Culture?

Some time ago, I wrote about ephemeral artefacts, and new forms of emergent culture that are characteristic of a UCaPP (ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate) society. Improv Everywhere's Cell Phone Symphony may not exactly exemplify high culture, but it sure reflects a form of emergent culture that captures the notion of the ephemeral artefact. And, it's a wonderful prank, to boot!
The participants didn't know ahead of time what they would be doing; they were just told to bring a backpack and a cell phone. After everyone had arrived, I explained the mission to the group. The first step was to divide everyone up by cell phone brand. In addition to creating a cacophony of 60 phones going off at once, I also wanted to have different sections play at different times, like a symphony. Instead of the "string section", we would have the "Samsung section". The crowd divided into brands and each group tried to find a common ring tone that all of their phones had. The Nokia group had the "Nokia Tune", Motorola folks had "Hello Moto", etc. Those without common ring tones would either partner up with someone who did, or partner with someone else without a common tone. Agents began to pair off and trade phone numbers, deciding who would enter the store and who would be a caller. ... Once everyone was in the store with their bag checked, I called our conductor Agent Kula back in Union Square and told him it was time for the first movement. He counted down and had all 60 callers hit send simultaneously.

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