Team 6 Commentary

Caitlin, Jess and Sarah please provide your commentary on any ideas raised, or neglected, in the question, response and discussion process during the preceding week. And if so inclined you may revisit and comment on previous questions, responses, discussions and commentaries.


Several people responded to question 3, which asked students to evaluate their opinions and judgments regarding the rise of websites dedicated to punishing social norm transgressors. Most respondents agreed that these types of websites are acceptable up to a certain point. It can be beneficial to use shaming to affirm important social norms – especially those that prevent offensive acts that may harm or offend other members of society. However, while shaming websites can make people more accountable for their own actions, the class agreed that there are several issues that need to be addressed regarding Internet shaming. The Internet is a permanent record, which, consequently, can permanently damage an individual’s reputation. It is also a breeding ground for false information and gossip to be spread. Whether the gossip is intentional or not, people too often take online information at its face value, without critically assessing its credibility.

We discussed the American cultural practice of tipping and how it is considered a cultural faux pas to tip poorly for a well-delivered service. This phenomenon demonstrates the cross-cultural differences in social norms, and how norm transgressors in one country may not be considered bad in another country. However, there are certainly some behaviors that seem universally unacceptable (i.e. dog poop girl).

Furthermore, we discussed the implications of the Internet regarding the private-self vs. public-self dichotomy. While no one answered question 4, which specifically addressed this issue, many people touched upon it in their responses to question 3, and the class engaged somewhat with the topic before we transitioned to Jess’s portion of the presentation. I think most people agree that there should be a distinction between the two selves and that our private-self deserves a greater respect for its privacy, but the way to go about insuring that our private selves are not exploited on the Internet is becoming more and more difficult, and the dividing line between our two selves is becoming increasingly blurred.


Overall, Tuesday's discussion was successful, and I was surprised and pleased by the amount of conversation generated. Although the questions I wrote received a lot of commentary, in reflection, I wish I had made them more specific. Instead of inspiring diverse opinions, many people were neutral and had similar ideas about the topics. I did expect this, though—the opening section of chapter 4 offered different examples of shaming that made for different interpretations of the consequences. For example, with the New York Subway Flasher, the man was apprehended for his crime and justice was served; thus, his exposure as deviant on the internet may be justified. On the other hand, with the minor Cell Phone Thief, the minor was exploited without the knowledge that he was a minor; we reached the agreement that this instance is not as justified. The appropriate context of shaming is subjective and a long-term social norm, yet it is amplified with the internet. Some form of regulation is necessary, like a coalition of experts, and in the case of vigilantism or police regulation to catch criminals, it is helpful. However…we still aren't quite sure how we could amend these things; finding a coalition of experts to regulate internet activity is touchy, for several reasons: who decides who gets to say what? where do we draw the line on free speech? what about worldwide internet censorship as a function of society?

For future groups, I don't think one chapter was ample information to divide between 3 people, even though we were able to make about 50 minutes worth of conversation from it.


Even though only one person responded to question #5, I feel that parts of the question brought up in class produced a very productive discussion. The discussion of shame and whether or not it is temporary or permanent lead on to more in depth questions. There were comments about how shame was produced in the past, and if so how it affected the future of Internet shaming. How it is not harder to recreate ones’ self and be rid of the harmful memories. The class felt that even though it is agreed that punishment should be proportionate, we could not determine a proper source to create or come up with that punishment. Again, it is an authority issue, who gets to do what and why? The topic that I felt the class was most intrigued about was taking shaming into ones own hand. Shaming invites the public to punish the offender, but what happens when that line is crossed? We discussed the issue of violence, and mistakes. What happens when we accidentally shame someone due to our own lack of information or knowledge? One example was the Carpool lane; sometimes we don’t see the shorter person in the back seat, or the passenger laying down sleeping. Another example was the University of Colorado who photographed students on 4/20 in hopes of catching the students smoking pot. However, some students who were identified were innocent. The class discussed their disgust that the university would do something like that and shame innocent students without them knowing. The main topic that the class focused on in the end was the Nurember Files, the worst shaming incident that crossed the line; shaming that lead to death of innocent people. Shaming turned into Vigilantism, and we were right back where we started, who gets to determine what is right and what is wrong? Who gets to play God? Shaming ultimately becomes:
Mob like
Potentially subversive of the very social order that it tries to protect

I also agree with Sarah, these topics blended so much into one another that it was hard to divide into 3 separate sections without repeating one another, although we did do it! ☺

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