A brilliant new history of viral culture

Bill Wasik’s And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture is the cultural history of a phenomenon that Wasik himself helped to usher into being.

Wasik created the first flash mob — a viral phenomenon whereby strangers converged at one location after receiving an e-prompt — in 2003. The point was to let information originate and spread from the ground up instead of trickling down from media giants on high. (This despite the fact that Wasik himself works at Harper’s.) Six years later, blogs, memes, and nanostories are ubiquitous. And yet, Wasik advocates taking baby steps away from technology, “making careful and self-reflective choices about what we read, watch, consume.” As for the reasoning behind that first flash mob: “I was bored,” he explains.

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A brilliant new history of viral culture