The book is Bill Wasik’s And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. Wasik, an editor at Harper’s, is a firsthand authority on the epidemiology of cultural virulence: In 2003 he invented, apparently out of boredom, a phenomenon that would come to be known as “Flash Mobs” — pointless sudden gatherings, at venues ranging from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the Times Square Toys “R” Us, of hundreds of people summoned by e-mails and texts who would disperse in less than ten minutes. The idea spread quickly across the country and around the world, and before long it was even paid the ultimate homage of being co-opted by corporate advertisers.
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