Jul 9

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Dog Poop Girl: Shame Attack on the Net

From Ross Stapleton-Grey via email: "fyi this item, on the use of cellphone cameras and the Net for a global shaming campaign, and [now] imagine "intelligence agents" swapped in for "dog poop girl"..."

This story about a woman who refused to clean up after her dog in a subway car, and was subjected to net harrassment and public shaming as a result, is closely related to this previous entry about the persistence of images in cyberspace, as well as conscious plays on that persistence. The net as global memory and sense organ. But as Don Park notes, it's also a warning about mob behavior in cyberspace. Raises the need to evolve new, net-savvy social norms.

Tangentially, in followup email, Ben Gross wrote:

I just listened to an uncut interview with Chuck Pahlaniuk by NPR's Rick Kleffel. In the interview they talk about complete shaming and loss of face as the real horror in a secular society. I recommend at least listening to this short section. In the MP3 below it starts at 14:55 although, I recommend starting at 12:27 for a better lead in.

Unexpurgated radio interview with Chuck Pahlaniuk

The interview is much more about the nature of shock in today's culture, but parts of it have some relevance to the "dog poop girl" discussion.

Finally, I did a check to see if I could find an actual image, to make sure that this wasn't a net rumor.

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Comments: 4

  M Roberts [07.09.05 03:22 PM]

In a similar observation, Thomas Friedman frames the solution to Islamic radicalism as a question of changing cultural acceptability in his latest column [].

  adamsj [07.10.05 08:03 AM]

Tim, I couldn't agree more that this incident "raises the need to evolve new, net-savvy social norms" but I have to ask: Isn't this sort of behavior just exactly that?

  Tim O'Reilly [07.10.05 08:21 AM]

John (Adams) --

yes and no. Norms evolve over time. What we see here is the clash of the future and the past. The expectation of privacy has changed radically. But how far will exposure go before people say, "that's too much"? Look at the debate on the site I linked to with the picture. There's lots of unanimity about the fact that the "dog poop girl" did something wrong (and so it's a simple cautionary tale). But there's no unanimity about whether the vigilantes did anything wrong. I.e. we're seeing the evolution in action, not a relatively stable stopping point. (Evolution is always a "punctuated equilibrium.")

  adamsj [07.10.05 11:29 AM]


I wouldn't frame it as a clash of future and past.

The honor/shame ethic goes way back in western culture (and I bet elsewhere, too), and shaming and shunning are found in various subcultures all over the US (and again, I bet elsewhere).

Isn't this the future enabling the past, an old ethical idea given new life via peoples' recently-acquired ability to enforce it--at least their version of it--on those who don't share it?

Perhaps what we saw in action there is the new norm, whether we like it or not.

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