At Conceptual Trends and Current Topics Kevin Kelly discusses a Wall Street Journal article about pranksters such as Improv Everywhere.

Pranks have gone from legendary spoofs in college fraternities in the 1950s, to subversive happenings by political activists in the 60s and 70s, to conceptual art pieces by maniacal artists into the 90s. Now they are erupting online as a social media web 2.0 event.

Some of these are wonderful events and just watching videos of some of them (such as Best Game Ever or Food Court Musical bring a tear to my eye — they must be wonderful and bizarre if one is a real life witness.

While they do seem to be becoming increasingly popular I agree with Joey Skaggs in the WSJ article:

Mr. Skaggs, whose best-known pranks include duping a New York television station in 1976 with a story about a bordello for dogs, says the stunts lack a subversive, anti-establishment edge. Because of that, people are less likely to stop and think about what they’re seeing — or even care. “The bar’s been really lowered,” he says. “There’s a lot of junk out there calling itself pranks.”

I joined my local Improv Everywhere online group some time back but the few ideas floated were either pretty lame or just copies of things already done elsewhere. It felt more like they were being done for the benefit of those involved, rather than to create a moment of magic in the lives of the “audience”.

Still, interesting to see how it progresses. If such events become too common, will the magic disappear? I can well imagine, say, jaded London commuters having little time for a happening if it stands in the way of them getting their train.