Individual Work
crowds + power

Drawing upon Crowds and Power (1960) by Elias Canetti, Jody Zellen creates a HTML and JavaScript based work with the same title. Through images, text, and numerous pop-up windows, Zellen gives the reader a sense of how overpowering a crowd can become. Upon first glance, the reader notices a scrolling text bar at the top of the screen; the text tells a short story of how a crowd of people forms, one person joining the next person, most times without a reason or an announcement. The power that these newly formed crowds hold goes beyond measure, as chaos or orderly protests can occur just as suddenly as the group was formed.

On clicking the first picture under the scrolling text bar, a pop-up window appears, showing the first couple of words from the scrolling text bar. Another pop-up comes up, showing the next couple of words, and this tendency continues throughout the piece; with each pop-up, the screen becomes more and more crowded with black boxes with small, white letters. These pop-ups appear sometimes one after another in a square pattern, yet, sometimes, the pictures appear in varying order.

Similar pop-ups emerge when the user clicks on the thumbnails at the left of the screen or the rectangular pictures at the bottom. These pop-ups appear in sequential order and end up showing a full picture; other times, a single pop-up box opens up and reveals parts of a picture, eventually forming a whole image.

This piece suggests that people form crowds for no reason other than to have safety in numbers in the event of a crisis, an idea that is illustrated by the seemingly sporadic appearance of pop-ups in the piece. Other times, people form together in more orderly means, as demonstrated through the orderly display of pop-ups that appear in a square pattern, one after another. In any case, crowds + power presents power in numbers, overpowering the user’s computer screen with pop-ups.