Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



In 2003, writer and cultural critic Bill Wasik stunned the world with his newest experiment, the MOB Project, which flooded the streets of New York City with strange performances quickly labeled “flash mobs” by participants and local media. With the goal of understanding the communicative purpose and function of these new performance events, this project analyzes the flash mob through the lenses of performance studies, rhetorical studies, cultural studies, and continental philosophy. Drawing from genealogical research, rhetorical analyses, and critical philosophy, I argue the flash mob is a new form of performance serving as a locus of community, creativity, and politics in an age overrun by spectacle and surveillance. Moreover, whether created as complex communal in-jokes or a modern form of cultural critique, flash mobs act as elaborate pranks played out within the quasi-public realm of the capitalist city, exposing its heretofore unrealized methods of operation. Through a critical application of the theories of philosophers Michel de Certeau, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, I analyze the ability of Bill Wasik’s flash mobs to highlight the dominant strategies of surveillance, standardization, and structure operating within the capitalist system. In so doing, I explore the tactical nature of the flash mob as a performance event.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Stephenson Shaffer, Tracy



Included in

Communication Commons