[Air-l] vampirefreaks et al

John Wunderlich john.wunderlich at gmail.com
Thu Sep 14 15:55:45 PDT 2006

On the CBC last night, in a documentary called "The Human Behaviour
Experiments" and a subsequent townhall discussion, this same question was
posed albeit indirectly. The film was about Abu Ghraib and references
included both the Milgram obedience experiments and the Stanford Prison
experiment. There was also a passing reference to the Genevese murder, with
38 people or so people hearing the screams and not dialing the police.

It seems to me that the triggering conditions for reacting in the way that
the reported wanted you to react are a confluence of at least two events:

1. The posts have to be anomalous in the context in which they are placed
(more extreme, more incoherent, more specific)
2. The posts need to be viewed by someone who has a personal acquaintaince
with the poster outside of cyberspace AND outside of the cyber context
within which the posts are occurring.

Absent that confluence, it seems reasonable to expect that posts will be
taken as hyberboly or otherwise not to be taken seriously.


On 9/14/06, Jonathan Sterne <jonathan.sterne at mcgill.ca> wrote:
> Hi All,
> I've been on the phone with reporters on and off today and am struggling a
> bit with the whole event.  Mostly, the questions are about the "impacts"
> of
> various technologies, to which I respond that the technology with the most
> impact yesterday was a gun.
> But I just had a long back and forth with a reporter from the National
> Post
> who was saying "the guy had this website, why didn't anybody do anything?"
> I tried to explain the subtleties of goth subculture, darkness and all
> that
> to no avail.  The old "most of the people on this website never do
> anything"
> argument wasn't washing either.  My line was that the responsible people
> for
> doing something were the people close to the shooter, whether they be
> online
> or offline friends.  The reporter then turned it back on me and asked
> whether that wasn't simply dismissing online communication as a serious
> context.
> Sooooo, I'm turning the question around to you: at what point do people
> have
> a responsibility to "intervene" in something they see online and if that
> point comes, what form should their reaction take?
> I write this noting that there was just a big report (I think I saw this
> in
> the paper a day or two ago) by the Canadian anti-defamation league about
> the
> proliferation of hate websites and governments being unable to regulate
> them.
> Best,
> --J
> --
> Jonathan Sterne
> Department of Art History and Communication Studies
> McGill University
> http://sterneworks.org
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John Wunderlich

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and
--H. L. Mencken

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