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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Flash Crowd (Flash Mob)  
  What you call a group of people who suddenly appear at an interesting location.  

In this novella, Larry Niven explores some of the social consequences of having unlimited, cheap teleportation. One social consequence is that when millions of people see something interesting about a location on mass media, all of those who think "gee, I'd like to check that out" can get there in the blink of an eye.

At this point in the story, the Tonight Show has reported on an interesting ocean phenomenon at Hermosa Beach.

"...The next thing anyone knows, every man, woman and child in the country has decided that he wants to see the red tide at Hermosa Beach..."

"Another flash crowd. It figures," said Jerryberry. "You can get a flash crowd anywhere there are displacement booths."

From Flash Crowd, by Larry Niven.
Published by Fantasy And Science Fiction in 1972
Additional resources -

Displacement booths are the technology that allow teleportation to work.

Niven is not the first person to worry about the social and political consequences of teleportation. In his classic 1956 novel The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester wrote this about the development of the ability to jaunte (teleportation by mental ability):

Within three generations the entire solar system was on the jaunte. The transition was more spectacular than the change-over from horse and buggy to gasoline age four centuries before. On three planets and eight satellites, social, legal and economic structures crashed while the new customs and laws demanded by universal jaunting mushroomed in their place.
(Read more about the jaunte stage)
Bester covers many of the same situations, including burglary by teleportation, teleporting gangs of looters, desecration of the environment and long-distance space teleportation. Niven, on the other hand, does some nice work in trying to figure out the physics of how point-to-point teleportation across the face of the Earth might be done.

You might also enjoy reading about the transo, a commercial teleportation device, from Clifford Simak's excellent 1961 novel Time is the Simplest Thing. Simak also explores the effect that cheap teleportation has on business and society.

Also, check out Smart Mobs, a website devoted to non-sf writer Howard Rheingold's book of the same name. He writes about the use of communication technology (cell phones and messaging) that allow groups of people to coordinate mass action.

(Thanks to an anonymous reader for suggesting this item.)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Flash Crowd
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Flash Crowd
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

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