Slutshaming and gossipmongering

Eminem played a concert at Slane Castle in Ireland and 63 people were arrested. But the news online was not about the performance or the arrests but about a girl giving a guy a blowjob. She is now being mocked and shamed and has been given the epithet SlaneGirl. Sadly the hashtag #slanegirl is apparently trending in Ireland.

The slut-shaming is apparent with nobody criticizing the men involved, the people who took photos, the people who put photo’s online or the people who happily spread the photo’s on various social media. Some of the discussions are balanced this blog post or this but there are also the discussion threads on Reddit and other sites. Most harmful in the wider sense is the widespread shouting on Facebook and Twitter.

There has also been good support in discussions online, on Twitter and what about the Facebook page: Solidarity With Slanegirl We Suck Dick Too

So thanks to social media I wake up in the morning to find out people are angry at other people having sex. Oh the shock and horror. Imagine that.

What still surprises me is the way in which the gossiping about someone nobody knows but feels the need to include photographic proof and judgements of the person. All this rage and indignation… does it really stem from the fact that someone we don’t know gave a blowjob to someone else we don’t know? Really?

There are social reasons for gossip and pointless smalltalk but the need to be among the ones who spread the images are difficult to tease out for me.

Peering into private homes

The photographer Arne Svenson has an amazing series of photographs. What he has done is photographed his neighbors in the building opposite from where he lives in New York. Using a 500mm lens he peered through the glass-faced building and took some amazing shots.

The result is a series of images called The Neighbors. They are very personal images into peoples private lives but – from what I’ve seen online – none of the images clearly identify anyone. On the artist’s site this is how the photographs are explained:

The grid structure of the windows frame the quotidian activities of the neighbors, forming images which are puzzling, endearing, theatrical and often seem to mimic art history, from Delacroix to Vermeer. The Neighbors is social documentation in a very rarified environment. The large color prints have been cropped to various orientations and sizes to condense and focus the action.

The Guardian has a quote from Svenson about his work:

“I don’t photograph anything salacious or demeaning,” is Svenson’s stock retort when pressed on his work’s morality. “I am not photographing the residents as specific, identifiable individuals, but as representations of humankind.”

Despite this, two neighbors sued Svenson after having spotting their children among the subjects. Yet a court ruled this month that Svenson’s actions were defensible under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and that such art needs no consent to be made or sold.

The interesting thing is that Svenson seems to express a clear ethical boundary. He is taking photographs of people, without their consent, inside their homes and making them public. And yet he does draw the line at making individuals identifiable.

Responding to attacks

In a very thoughtful and interesting post L’Hote writes about the Japanese response to their terrorist group/cult Aum Shinrikyo. The calm determination not to close down society and the results it caused to understand terrorism and threat assessment, look to Aum

Just as important was what the Japanese government and people did not do. They didn’t panic. They didn’t make sweeping changes to their way of life. They didn’t implement a vast system of domestic surveillance. They didn’t suspend basic civil rights. They didn’t begin to capture, torture, and kill without due process. They didn’t, in other words, allow themselves to be terrorized. Instead, they addressed the threat. They investigated and arrested the cult’s leadership. They tried them in civilian courts and earned convictions through due process. They buried their dead. They mourned. And they moved on. In every sense, it was a rational, adult, mature response to a terrible terrorist act, one that remained largely in keeping with liberal democratic ideals.

This reminded me very much of the Norwegian response to the Norwegian Breivik killed 76 people and bombed parliament buildings in central Oslo. He was politically motivated and left a, so called, manifesto “arguing” his misguided case.

The Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg reacted immediately by calling for more democracy and more openness. It was a very moving and heartfelt response from a man who knew very many of the victims personally. He would go on to reinforce this position later (Huffington Post):

Five days after an attacker incensed by Norway’s culture of tolerance horrified the world, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday issued a quiet call of defiance to his countrymen: Make Norway even more open and accepting.

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference.

Of course each situation is different but it is interesting to note that the “Keep Calm and Carry On” approach seems to be the quickest way of returning to a state of normality and healing that ensures that the attackers have failed in impacting the society they attack. L’Hote ends his post, which talks about the American response but applies equally to other countries, with the words

We have examples of adult responses to terrorism. Instead, we betray ourselves, in every sense a terrorized, terrified people.

Don’t see this as a spoiler – go read the text.

Technology: older than we think

Technology is always older than we think. Recently XKCD published a wonderful series of quotes on how we perceive the changes technology brings on the pace of everyday life.

Then today I came across Mark Twain’s excellent use of the camera in King Leopold’s Soliloquy: A Defense of His Congo Rule published in 1905.

The kodak has been a sore calamity to us. The most powerful enemy that has confronted us, indeed… Then all of a sudden came the crash! That is to say, the incorruptible kodak — and all the harmony went to hell! The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I couldn’t bribe… Then that trivial little kodak, that a child can carry in its pocket, gets up, uttering never a word, and knocks them dumb!

Promiscuous plagiarism

Attitudes towards plagiarism have not always been the same. But this story about a signed letter from Rudyard Kipling admitting promiscuous plagiarism kind of made my day.

“I am afraid that all that code in its outlines has been manufactured to meet ‘the necessities of the case’: though a little of it is bodily taken from (Southern) Esquimaux rules for the division of spoils.

“In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen.

“Very sincerely, Rudyard Kipling.”

The choice of words is also very interesting promiscuously and stolen. Kipling seems to realize the importance of his actions but admits them freely in this letter.

Why government shouldn’t have a sense of humor

You’ve heard it before… social media is a cocktail party. You have to be interesting and interact. Lurk at a cocktail party and you will get bored. Even worse your friends will get bored of you and not invite you again. So get stuck in there.

The problem is that this is a metaphor… Being funny at a cocktail might be ok. Being amusing on social media? Not always. Not for the first time I put forward this view at a discussion between politicians and social media scholars in Borås.

Here I argued that tone of voice is important and government bodies should be wary of social media. In particular I used examples of the police in a Swedish town creating and using their own Gangnam Style parody. I tried to explain that this was problematic in relation to copyright law, use of government property and the way in which the police are to be perceived.

Not everyone agreed. They argued funny was good for government and that parodying popular memes could only create a popular buzz. We agreed to disagree. So today, not without a touch of schadenfreude, I read this on Torrentfreak:

Four mayors in Denmark now know what it’s like to become a target of an international recording label out for blood over copyright. The controversy stems from the publication of a YouTube video featuring the officials dancing to Gangnam Style. Universal Music, the company holding the copyright to the original track, have warned the mayors that unless they pay $42,000 by tomorrow, a copyright infringement battle will follow.

Supposing they “chose” to pay rather than going to court my question is who should pay? Should the Danish taxpayer be forced to pay for the mayors’ lack of judgement? Or is it a personal liability? Shouldn’t the mayors been doing something better with their time that attempting to follow the tail end of a dying meme?

So the next time someone questions my ideas about the importance that government bodies not have a sense of humor I shall ask if they can afford their own amusement.

Making attribution work

One of the problems with using as many Creative Commons licensed images as I do is creating and maintaining a system so that I am able to attribute the right picture to the right creator in the right way.

This is why I’m excited about the project Commons Machinery that promises to make my life much easier.

Commons Machinery is building infrastructure in support of the Commons. Our aim is to make the use of digital works as easy as possible by developing new technology built on open standards for licensing, attribution and provenance.

So support Commons Machinery and make attribution (and life) easier.

Social Media for Coping with Grieving and Bereavement

My colleague Ylva and I are hoping to organize a panel at IR14 in Denver http://ir14.aoir.org on the use of social media for coping with grieving and bereavement.

If you are interested in participating please send us your short paper. In order to put together the panel application we need your submission by 1 March, please email your work to us. We will then put together the panel and submit everything to the final deadline by 14 March.

Here are the instructions
SHORT PAPERS (individual or multi-author) – Minimum 1000 words, 1200 word maximum not including bibliography. Papers should include:
- Description/summary of the work’s intellectual merit with respect to its findings, its relation to extant research and its broader impacts.
- A description of the methodological approach or the theoretical underpinnings informing the research inquiry.
- Conclusions or discussion of findings.
- Bibliography of work cited.
- Submissions must adhere to the template for the conference. http://ir14.aoir.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/SPIR2013_template.doc

Online instructions http://ir14.aoir.org/cfp/

We are also interested in gathering or joining a larger international network in this topic in order to carry out cross-cultural comparisons.

Ylva Hård af Segerstad
hardy@chalmers.se

Mathias Klang
klangm@chalmers.se