Blog Post

Seasonal Flash Mobs and Other Random Hacks of Kindness and Joy

This morning my friend Celeste posted a Hallelujah chorus flashmob staged in a mall, captured on video by a professional videographer and then also on the handhelds of dozens of the shoppers who happened to be there for this quite stunningly staged "impromptu" performance.   Many of their videos have been uploaded to the Web too.  You can watch this particular video here:


I'm a sucker for these.  I've seen this one before and also the Jerusalem Hanukkah Flashmob ( and many, many others (including a few staged by my students over the years).  I know there are levels and levels of politics underlying such spontaneous acts in different locales.   Yet, when I watch them, either live or on YouTube, the Random Hacks of Kindness Effect does something to me.   I want to believe that joy is intrinsically a human quality, goal, desire, aspiration.   I want to believe that kids have it and that, although we work mightily to school (sic) them to the idea that learning is the grimmest, most regulated work, they retain, despite us, a love of play, even in the saddest times, maybe especially in the saddest and most conflict ridden times.


Random Hacks of Kindness ( is an actual organization that describes itself this way:  "Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is all about using technology to make the world a better place by building a community of innovation. RHoK brings software engineers together with disaster risk management experts to identify critical global challenges, and develop software to respond to them. A RHoK Hackathon event brings together the best and the brightest hackers from around the world, who volunteer their time to solve real-world problems."   


A flash mob uses the same theory to create moments of random and spontaneous and voluntary joy.   Random Hacks of Joy It brings together a community who have spent time planning together, practicing together, rehearsing together for a purpose of bringing joy to a certain world, including the banal world of stressed-out Christmas shoppers in the midst of the world's great financial crisis.  I like that.   It's a little dopey.   And I like that silliness too.   I like what it does to the organizing group (RHoK or flash mob singers or dancers) and I like what it does to the world upon which it acts and, in the best of all worlds, is then inspired to pass that activity and desire to do good (on whatever level) on to others.


That's all for today.   A RHoJ passed on to me from a friend who saw it on YouTube and now passed on to you.  Without the Web reporting, I'm not sure a flash mob works--at least for me.  it is the domino effect of the planned and rehearsed and recorded spontaneity that inspires me, not just with Flash Mobs, but of most of what I do through HASTAC and my other activity on behalf of this remarkable, inspiring, and potentially bracing and embracing World Wide Web that we have so recently made part of all of our lives.   On good days, I'm sure that domino effect of spontaneous connection is how the Web works.   Because of those good days--the possibilities for joy and kindness and social innovation to a greater social purpose-- it is essential, for all of us, to ensure that it stays as free and open as possible. 


No comments