Saturday, February 02, 2008

Will there really be another Shutdown Day? Can you plan a viral event?

Two postings here back in March and April 2007 recorded my excitement at the Internet-based Shutdown Day on March 24, 2007. A site encouraged people to turn off their computers, and do something else, just to see what it felt like. More than 50,000 people responded. My second article in April, entitled "Shutdown Day - the Day After" expressed disappointment that the majority of people reported that they "sex" and "computer use" as what they had done (sometimes in combination). Even at the time, I recognized that it might be a "generational thing" on my part to be so surprised. I myself had spent the day with a friend participating in a haiku writing contest. I've been checking the official site periodically and have been googling around, without finding activity yet on Shutdown Day 2008. I now am asking myself -- why does it need to happen again? Isn't it okay that it happened once, and that I had a day that got me thinking?

On Shutdown day there had been simultaneous flash mob pillow fights in a number of cities, including Vancouver. With very little lead time, a word-of-mouth announcement went out, boosted by emails, cell phones and messaging, inviting people to drop what they were doing and show up with concealed pillows. Although nobody called ME, the following video taken on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery shows a very engaging alternative activity to being hunched over a computer. Two viral events in the same spirit on the same day. Coincidence? I think not. Repeatable? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm starting to get it that the nature of a viral event is that it gets set in motion, and then it is what it is.

Vancouver | Flash Mob Pillow Fight 2007, Feather Extravaganza from ardenstreet on Vimeo.

And now I am intrigued -- a flash mob wannabe, waiting for my first opportunity to check it out. Since last year I've become much more comfortable about both the short lead-up and quick wind-down of viral events. In fact, I've joined a Facebook group called "Flash Mob Vancouver". I am now poised to leap into that loop, and to be ready to pocket my palm pilot and go show up. Whether or not the Shutdown Day website fires up again and gives me a place to report, I can move on and apply that experience towards another step. I'm ready and waiting to shut down my computer and show up for the next "international day of fluff" -- 2008 World Wide Pillow Fight Club 3.0. And I'll report here.

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