The dynamics of online shaming : a sociological study of Hong Kong's virtual world

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This research studies the “dynamics” of online shaming in the context of Hong Kong society. The term “online shaming” is generally understood to refer to a form of stigmatization, in which people try to condemn “alleged-deviants”. By introducing Erving Goffman’s and Randall Collins’s discussions on the Interaction Ritual, this research offers a sociological explanation for the phenomenon of online shaming, and the interaction mechanism behind it. In particular, I argue that online shaming is not only a practice of condemning “deviant” actors as it has been usually conceptualized. Rather, it is a dynamic interactive process that revolves around different types of actors and modes of participation (e.g. deliberately shame or defend a person, intentionally withdraw from a shaming event, etc), which is a crucial aspect of online shaming that previous research has yet to address. Fundamentally, I propose to distinguish three forms of online shaming, namely Behavioral Labelling, Publification, and Unmasking. What is of no less importance is the fact that there is an emotional-energy-like force that drives netizens to engage in or disengage from online shaming events, which I call “the sense of companions”. Such a diversity of elements, I argue, define some of the major patterns of online interaction among Hong Kong netizens nowadays.
Date of Award8 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorWilliam Peter BAEHR (Supervisor) & Hon Fai CHEN (Co-supervisor)

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