Shame: A Field Guide
This year, we've heard a lot about people who have been the victims of severe online shaming punishments, including Monica Lewinsky and Justine Sacco. Shame, we know, is a powerful emotion and a dangerous tool. This session provides a practical overview of shame and shaming -- their strengths, weaknesses, and liabilities. Using a series of examples as thought experiments, we will identify certain features of shaming that make us uncomfortable or we find unjust. We will look at shaming that targets individuals versus shaming aimed at groups. We will examine the many possible outcomes of shaming, including the potential to backfire.
Like any tool, shaming can be applied to any cause, positive or negative. Shame can also be increasingly used by anyone. Given the reach, speed, and accessibility of social media, many people have the power to expose individuals or groups to public disapproval, and everyone has the possibility of becoming shame’s victim. But this talk also builds out shame into its full complexity, including its use in government policy, as well as its potential use against institutions and even governments. We will examine how shame might help effectively tackle large-scale social dilemmas, like tax havens and climate change.