They’re Swarming, and They’re Not Bees

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They're Swarming, and They're Not Bees

Zealous fans of celebrities and other notables are using text messaging on their cell phones to locate and instantly report to their cohorts, or “group swarm” when and where they have spotted a sought-after idol. Prince William appears to be the latest casualty of this phenomenon. Young women have been swarming the Prince at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to the point security staff have had to whisk him away from the hot pursuit of mobs of young women. Describing this informal communication network of young women as “actually quite sophisticated, since it starts with a small group and then grows in a snowball effect to a group of hundreds”, it is clear that mobile technology has created more ways to communicate faster than ever before.

Groups of people that can be amassed upon short notice can obviously have a beneficial or harmful outcome, depending on the purpose of the group. Community organization and citizen community policing efforts benefit greatly from this type of technology. The recent formation of “smart mobs” for political purposes dramatically changed the election outcome of former President Joseph Estrada in The Philippines: “smart mobs” were mobilized by text messaging, pagers and other mobile communication and swarmed in mass protest demonstrations whenever the candidate was speaking, and he was ousted from office. According to Alex Magno, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines in an interview with the Washington Post during the election period there, “It’s like pizza delivery. You can get a rally in 30 minutes – delivered to you.”