YOU MEAN ITS LIBERATING TO RIDE A RUSH HOUR SUBWAY?
Elias Canetti wrote in his book "Crowds and Power" that individuals give up something of themselves the moment they join a crowd, a large human mass. To many Americans, this is antithetical to our existence because of our worship of the individual. But there is one thing Americans can't overcome, and that is being swayed by human psychology. Canetti writes, "distinctions are thrown off and all feel equal" when the crowd forms. We suddenly belong to a collective and by psychological standards, that is liberating.
If we are to understand the power we possess as experiential designers, we need to be able to study and enunciate the power of crowds, of mass experience. We stare in wonder sometimes at various cultures who work themselves into trancelike states en masse. But have you ever been at an EDM festival when the beat drops? That trance, that euphoria, that rhythm is universally human. What is it about proximity, touch, rhythm that expands the human experience?
In his rather enlightening book Spectacle, David Rockwell discusses this very concept by looking at some of the largest gatherings on earth. What does it mean to gather something the size of a family? A community? A religion? What does it mean to us as humans to connect in manners that involve the physical, the mental, the ceremonial? There may be different explanations of meaning for each person, but the power of that connection cannot be denied.
It's now being seen as an economic engine as well. Sports stadiums, such as Yankee Stadium in New York City, are literally removing paid seating sections and replacing them with group platforms - places to stand closely. Amazing, right? What do those sports owners know that we don't?
In a world that has spent a lot of time separating us into individual units, that has created technology to keep us in our own bubbles, there is something so empowering knowing that no matter what occurs spatially, or technologically, the most overriding power we can rely on is that of connectedness to other human beings, physically and emotionally.
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