After 4 years of off-again, on-again writing, my paper about my Jeopardy experiences is finally out! Check out “How to survive a public faming: Understanding “The Spiciest Memelord” via the temporal dynamics of involuntary celebrification” here on First Monday.
I also highly recommend checking out the other articles in this Special Issue of Shame, Shaming and Online Image Sharing. In particular, I really recommend Signe Uldbjerg’s piece on “The rhythms of shame in digital sexual assault: Rythmic resistance and the repeated assault“. Although my Jeopardy experience is not even comparable to the trauma faced by the survivors in her piece, the descriptions of facing harassment that decreases in intensity but does not stop and the struggle to find agency against the shamers really resonates with me.
My paper is fairly technical so if you’re looking for just the tl;dr summary:
- We think of public shaming as purely punishment of social transgressions, but there’s no reason that the dynamics of this shaming should only be relegated to negative transgressions. What about celebrations of social transgressions — a “public faming”?
- Case in point: There’s a weird class of internet celebrities that are famous for a very brief amount of time through non-consensual sharing of their image. Think Star Wars Kid, Antoine Dodson / Bed Intruder, Alex From Target, or Ken Bone. Depending on how online you are, you’ve probably never heard of any of these people, but for very brief moments, they were catapulted to a very intense fame and public scrutiny before going back to obscurity. Traditional celebrity studies has ignored these cases as “not real celebrity” but what is the actual effect of this faming on the people themselves?
- This is where I come in with my self-examination (auto-ethnography) of my own experiences as the Spiciest Memelord. I lean heavily on Anne Jerslev’s theory of “celebrity temporalities” to describe how I get caught in the middle between slow yet powerful traditional institutions vs. the fast distributed interactions of strangers on social media. Think broadcast television and press releases vs. tweets and Facebook posts. The crash of these two forms squeezes me in the middle and I suffer a lot of internet harassment while large corporations take control of my image to serve their own narratives
- I describe how it feels to be caught in this situation and how I try to take back agency by reversing the spotlight onto my harassers. (I call this “radical reciprocity”, but Uldbjerg’s work has introduced me to the term “counter-shaming”). I do this by using my (tiny) fame platform as the Spiciest Memelord to call out MIT on its inequities or by using social media search against a sexual harasser to contact his friends and family.
You might be saying to yourself “wow, that tl;dr really felt like it should be a Twitter thread capping off the research”. And honestly, it probably should! But after a lot of angsting back and forth, I think I’ve finally settled that I’m not going to get onto Academic Twitter — for actually a lot of reasons related to my experiences on Jeopardy.Read More »