Designing Flash mobs

Joi Ito’s Web: Leadership in World of Warcraft

I had talked earlier about a new medium that intermixes reality and the internet.

What concerned me was the level of organization that was needed in order to ‘get stuff done’. Even if you did get a bunch of people somewhere, would they be able to accomplish tasks without an inherent hierarchical organization, like most of our governments and companies?

Sure, a bunch of people can point to a rug, or stage pillow fights, but would they be able to fix a house or clean up the neighborhood?

I understand that not all complex behavior of a bunch of people necessarily need a ‘leader’. Systems can be emergent in order to accomplish complex tasks. Ants and termites can build complex structures and societies with solely local interactions, rather than top-down hierarchical. But can these systems do everything a hierarchical system can do? And if so, how would you design them so that they evolve themselves?

Has any one done studies on how to design mob systems so that they can do things that companies can do? Are there ways to structure an organization so that people can be thrown together and something comes out of it?

It was that question that lead me to wonder how raids and groups work in the World of Warcraft. It was no coincidence that this article on leaderships in WoW got me thinking about it. According to the description, however, even the raids and groups there are hierarchical, and require quite a bit of planning and leadership.

Perhaps a little mix of both would be effective for flash mob organizations that want to be functional.

Before they can be designed or evolved, there needs to be a measure of how well a organization can accomplish a task, and a way to parameterize different characteristics of the organization. Then you can start exploring that parameter space to see which areas in this parameter space will be best at handling certain types of tasks at the system level.

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