Friday, August 12, 2011

Sam Odio versus Jonathan's Card

I assume you all know what is going on with the Starbucks Jonathan's Card thing. Jackass #1 puts his Starbucks card online so persons can donate to it and/or use it to purchase coffee. Jackass #2 finds a way to siphon money off the card and convert it into his own Starbucks gift certificates. Unfortunately, Brent Rose, over at Gizmodo, decided to comment on the whole thing:

...this still feels like a dick move. It wasn't his project to mess with. Besides, it's not a project about people buying each other coffee, it's about looking at human nature. If want your own art project / social experiment , then go and think something up yourself that doesn't tamper with someone else's.

Ok, Brent. Can I call you Brent? Here's the thing: Jonathan's Card is "an experiment in social sharing of physical goods using digital currency." If we accept this as true, then how are Sam's actions messing with the experiment? Given that Sam is a part of society, his actions are data related to the social experiment. Sam isn't messing with the experiment, or breaking the experiment, or tampering with the experiment. Sam is participating in the experiment.

If we can summarize this experiment as, "What happens when I put my Starbucks card online for people to use?" Then Sam's actions provide an answer: Sam Odio steals your fucking money. This is not an outlying bit of data or a statistical fluke. Rather, this is what happens. When a society gathers together to put their money in a collective pot, an industrious person steals the pot. It's why communism / socialism / being a nice person doesn't fucking work.

Now, Brent, I realize that you kind of address this in your post:

While there doesn't seem to be anything nefarious about this, siphoning money out of the original project just doesn't sit well with me. Although, if Jonathan Stark truly wanted an experiment in "social sharing," I suppose this kind of thing reflects the reality of our digital cesspool ecosystem.

But you seem reluctant to accept this as a meaningful piece of data. I recognize and understand why it would not sit well with you, but that does not discount the situation as meaningless to the experiment. I mean, you wrote it yourself: "it's not a project about people buying each other coffee, it's about looking at human nature".

Yes, this is an experiment that deals with human nature. And it provides a great insight into human nature: People are fucking assholes.

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