CART NARCS AND THE ENGINEERING OF SOCIAL SHAMING AS ENTERTAINMENT
Keywords:cart narcs, shaming, memes, social media, participatory culture
AbstractWith around 160 videos, 160,000 subscribers, and 18 million views, Cart Narcs is an “elite” YouTube channel. The typical Cart Narcs YouTube video is framed around the idea of shaming people who do not return their shopping carts. The eponymous Narc, Agent Sebastian, patrols grocery store parking lots looking for miscreants to confront and film. When he spots a target, he runs towards them making siren noises. "Cart Narcs!" he shouts. "That's not where the cart goes!" While seemingly related to established entertainment genres featuring real people in everyday situations and to prank videos, we identify significant features in Cart Narcs videos that distinguish them: the lack of a debrief; the positioning of the Cart Narc as the "nice guy" in the interaction; and the Cart Narc’s claim to the moral high ground. These features each remove a redemptive moment present in analogous types of content, resulting in a communicative interaction engineered to anger people. We ask how Agent Sebastian produces such a powerful emotional response to his seemingly innocent request that people return their shopping cart and what the logic of this form of media content might signify. Cart Narcs is a revealing case study in how the economy-driven logic of participation produces undesirable types of content when it overwhelms or wholly replaces social and aesthetic logics. Cart Narcs videos are a hybrid genre concoction that trade people's anger for monetized views, cloaked by the pretense of a social mission.
How to Cite
Reynolds, C., & John, N. (2021). CART NARCS AND THE ENGINEERING OF SOCIAL SHAMING AS ENTERTAINMENT. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12232