Douglas' idea that dirt can be best understood as matter out of place, or, something relative to one's environment and attitude about it, is also helpful when thinking about the viral videos which cascade upon us daily in our Facebook newsfeed and our Twitter tweet streams. A monkey in the jungle, not a surprise. A monkey in a shearling coat in an Ikea, well, pretty alarming.
When our expectations are defied in such a manner we now have a way to express our emotional responses -- delight, shock, horror -- whatever they may be, by hitting the forward, share, retweet, or post buttons on social media platforms.
Last month at Toronto's Pearson airport there was another 'matter out of place' incident that caught the attention of the Internet: the airport raccoon.
The initial video (note that many unauthorized versions of the video have popped up on YouTube, some of which have been taken down, and some of which haven't) was taken by an accounting professor who, being analytically minded, was interested not just in a misplaced raccoon but in the mechanisms of how things spread online. I got in touch with Prof. Graham to deconstruct his experience of somewhere between 24 and 48 hours of Internet stardom and the full story can be found here.