Viewfinder: Smart Mob Screening

A smart mob is a form of self-structuring social organization through technology-mediated, intelligent emergent behavior. According to Rheingold, smart mobs are an indication of the evolving communication technologies that will empower the people.¹

Adding the word screening at the end creates a new term describing a new method of screening a video. Beginning when the first camera was invented, a desire erupted in the heart of the cameraperson for an audience to admire the images. In the early part of the 19th century, an audience could only assemble in a theater where a large, expensive projector was installed. Beginning in the 1940s, individual audiences could gather in their own living rooms around a television set, but required access to a broadcasting system.

By the 1980s, video was delivered to these same living rooms via videocassette. Making a videocassette was much easier and thus video creators were able to participate in the media system. Shortly this gave way to DVDs, which were much less costly to send in the mail. However, nothing was quite as revolutionary as YouTube in 2005 when videos were shared quickly, easily and electronically via the Internet. Gaining an audience has never been easier, but something is missing from the living room.

Most video that is viewed on TV occurs within tiny groups of roommates or families. This a far cry from the hundreds of people that gather in theaters to watch a movie. Something happens in larger groups. The audience reaction is shared to a greater extent. The ooohs, aaahs, giggles, chuckles and belly laughs are more contagious. Some believe that a group consciousness forms, making the individual reflection upon a video scene subordinate to the group’s perceptions. This is why video creators invite people to their homes to screen their videos. This is one reason why people purchase large video displays and video projectors, an effort to maximize the group’s screening experience. This has worked quite well since the invention of the VCR. Until recently, most YouTube videos were viewed by groups hovering around a computer display. These days, most TV manufacturers provide a method to easily show YouTube videos in living rooms. This group screening process requires a bit of planning for people to gather in a living room.

Something happened in 2009 that allows people to screen videos in ad hoc locations like coffee shops. A revolution in small projectors has made this possible. A pico projector is about the size of a cell phone. Powered by batteries, a pico projector uses a tiny amount of power compared to a full-size projector, and utilizes either liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) or Digital Light Processing (DLP) projection technologies. Pico projectors use light emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of a typical quartz light source – this saves huge amounts of power at the expense of light output. In a real-world setting (e.g. the typical neighborhood coffee shop), pico projectors produce an image about two feet wide, and the image is not very bright.

These new projectors empower video creators to share their videos via smart mob screenings. Just send an email or a text to a group of people and they can show up in a public place to watch videos. In the coming months, we will likely see a lot of smart mob screenings appearing on video sharing web sites. If Starbucks was smart, they would look for ways to leverage smart mob screenings. Please send us an email after you attend or conduct your first smart mob screening. We’d like to hear from you.


Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

Did you find this content helpful?

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.