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Flash Mob in Marina

New Media Class surprises students in Dining Hall with performance

By Althea Benloss
On November 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 16 appeared to be a day like any other on the University of Bridgeport campus. Students filed into Marina Dining Hall upon its 5 p.m. opening and expected to meet up with friends and classmates and enjoy their dinner as usual. However, as soon as 6 p.m. hit, dinnertime at Marina was transformed into something quite unexpected and simply unusual—for UB especially.

As students filed into Marina on that day, they could sense that there was something different. The tables were separated enough so that there was a huge space in the center of the dining room, purple balloons hung from a few chairs near the center and finally, there was a projector that displayed a digital clock on the wall. There were several students questioning the new set-up and others perplexed by the excess amount of students in Marina.

Students in the cafeteria were startled by what appeared to be a loud argument by two young ladies at one table. One of them stood up and flung her chair to the ground and the dining room immediately became quieted as all eyes were on these two students. The argument grew louder and when it appeared as though it might get physical, one of the Sodexo workers separated the fight—pulling one towards the exit of the dining hall.

At this point, the lights shut off and when they were turned back on, numerous students were found standing on their chair yelling: "Shout!" at the top of their lungs (to the song "You make me want to shout"). Afterwards, these individuals ran to the center of the dining room screaming and cheering, as everyone else watched in awe and chattered in excitement. Those students then proceeded to imitate kung-fu style kicks towards one another (to the song "Everybody was kung-fu fighting"). At this point, onlookers began to gather around and take pictures and capture this event with their cell phones and cameras. The participants ran in place, then stood absolutely still for several moments and then proceeded to scatter and run around giving everyone a high-five. Next, F.L.O.H. (Future Leaders of Hip-Hop) appeared and gave an impressive performance, with two dancers even dancing on the table tops. All those who participated ran out of the dining hall clapping and cheering—which led everyone in Marina to cheer them on.

Professor Susan Katz's Introduction to New Media class surprised all those who were in Marina Dining Hall, eating dinner as usual, with a string of unusual pretenses. This was the first flash mob ever to be carried out at the university and it certainly had many students talking.

According to the New Media Flash Mob website, created by Katz's class, a Flash Mob is defined as an engaging surprise performance that involves harmless confusion to the audience and spontaneity, playfulness and anonymity for the participants. This flash mob in particular was an mP3 flash mob which had the instructions conveniently in the participants' ears, via their iPod or other mP3 device.

ELI student Luc Minh Thuy Lien who had never witnessed a flash mob before, enjoyed it a lot, even though the fight in the very beginning startled her (as she was at the adjacent table).

"I liked it," she said. "Everybody was great. People worked very hard to make the show."

Junior Geralda Moise participated in the Flash Mob and said that was really fun and that it was much better than she expected.

Senior Yaditza LaViera also partook in the Flash Mob and was one of the students in the fake argument that clearly got everyone's attention from the get-go. She is in Katz's New Media Class and this was her first time in a flash mob. Preparing for this event was not as simple as many may have thought and as part of the Creative Team, LaViera was in charge of writing the script for the entire event.

"It was a success," LaViera said. "It couldn't have been better. I enjoyed it; and we got a lot of feedback from [the spectators]."

Katz has taught the New Media class before, but it had always been online. This was her first non-online New Media class.

"The goal in this class is to do things that were really new," Katz said. "That nobody had ever tried."

She described the crowd sourcing projects that her class underwent and the building of a social network which was "really interactive and fun."

Katz said she started exploring flash mobs on and doing a lot of research about them.

"I'd been researching flashmobs that people are accustomed to seeing, called mP3 flash mobs, she said. "Since last semester I wanted to do this; where all the instructions were in your ear.  ‘Improve Everywhere'—they were our model."

"It was really fun," Katz said. "It felt like New Year's Eve."

Katz also mentioned that one of the main things she learned is that there is a lot of ambient noise in Marina. While rehearsing, the noise of the students in Marina Dining Hall was absent, but it was a totally different occurrence on the actual day.

"In that venue, I would run a script that wasn't so dependent on sound," Katz said. I think it had to be more actions."

Katz would like to do another flash mob next year but is very uncertain about doing so.

"I don't want to bore people," she said. "I'd like to because it's really fun, but then [I feel that it can be boring] if it becomes class material two semesters in a row and [some of those participants are] in the same class."

"It was a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun," Katz said. "There was a lot of people; There were easily 300 people there."

Katz said that it was a learning experience.

"I think we did a really, really, really good job," she said. "It was our first flash mob ever done at the school and it's something that we can all be proud of."

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