Monday, May 11, 2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson

A fantastic read for anyone who's into the intersection of sociology and the media (particularly online social media). Jon Ronson explores the recent phenomenon of epic public shaming, wherein a person makes a joke that comes across wrong or commits some kind of deception and then essentially has their career, life, and online identity soundly annihilated by the masses. Using as case studies such pilloried figures as Jonah Lehrer, Justine Sacco, Mike Daisey, Lindsey Stone, and Hank of the Adria Richards developer conference fiasco, Ronson explores how the semi-anonymous group-think nature of the latest technology has essentially brought back a punishment that was decommissioned in the US hundreds of years ago because its effects on the guilty were deemed too horribly cruel.

Ronson is an excellent writer and storyteller, but what really makes this book is how he somehow managed to get access to his case studies as well as hunt down relevant supporting characters from each situation. (For example, re: the Adria Richards developer conference fiasco, he not only interviewed Hank and Richards, but also one of the 4chan trolls who participated in the harassment of Richards. Now that was SUPER interesting.)

So yeah. If you're at all interested in the how-is-tech-changing-our-society question, you'll absolutely want to give this one a read. (Particularly good as an audio book, as it's not too long--7.5 hours--and narrated by Ronson himself, who I could pretty much sit & listen to all day.)

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