Anonymity and Invisibility ...
In response to Invisible Adjunct's announcement that she is retiring her remarkable blog, Scott McLemee offers some thoughts today about how one uses anonymity. Some time ago, before register for comment was required on the History News Network comment boards, I used to rail about their abuse by anonymous contributors there. Some of us were called everything but a child of G_d over there. Even with register for comment, the HNN boards can be pretty rough. That's why I always want my colleague, Derek Catsam, at my side in an HNN bar fight. In his own name, he always delivers as good as he gets.
But McLemee makes a more interesting point: that how one uses one's anonymity is a good measure of character. There are characters on the net and elsewhere (what is" confidentiality" or"blind peer review," for that matter, but anonymity?) who hide behind their invisibility only to chew on the ankles of those who do serious work or even serious jest. What distinguished The Invisible Adjunct was her use of anonymity to make visible the plight of those who found themselves made invisible in higher education's maws. She did it with grace. Always with civility, but always forcefully. More than that, now, she lets us know that we have agency. Victimhood is necessarily only a temporary condition, if it is respectable.
The lists of parting tributes to The Invisible Adjunct continue to grow, both at her site and here:
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Ralph E. Luker - 3/31/2004
Actually, Oscar, you are pointing to an issue of some concern among people who read HNN and Cliopatria. One of IA's many fans had signed on to comment at HNN under a pseudonym which she commonly uses on the net. As soon as she admitted that in a post at HNN, however, she was banned from commenting. I tried to intercede for her with Rick, but he believes that he has to either ban all pseudonyms or accept all pseudonyms. In terms of evenhanded justice, I can't argue with him. But the point of my post here is that different people use their invisibility differently. I can't see an altogether satisfactory answer to this. If you think that all the trolls have abandoned the effort to post at HNN, you are mistaken. And I don't want to expect Rick to delete one by one all of the spam comments automatically generated by some stiff who gets paid to cram unprotected webpages with pharmaceutical ads and even more offensive stuff. You might want to exchange e-mail with Rick about your concern.
Oscar Chamberlain - 3/31/2004
I keep forgetting that the Spam problem was one of the motives for the change.
I just hate the thought on missing out some other IA who prefers not to use a real name and who does not stoop to creating a real sounding pseudonym.
Chris Devenney - 3/30/2004
I haven't anything to contribute to the other comments here, but I wanted to express, yet again, how sad it is that IA has shut down. I understand why and that she needed to move on, but at the same time I can't help but feel the loss for all of us.
Thanks for the list of links.
Rana Ravens - 3/29/2004
Actually, one can be anonymous and comment here. Observe -- that ain't my given name!
That said, I don't know that anonymity is _quite_ the way I'd describe my online behavior; I'm certainly reachable by my blog and email, and I'm "known" well enough by a small readership that I'd rather not get the reputation of being a vicious spout-off. I'm just not known by my offline name, and I rather like it that way.
Jonathan Dresner - 3/29/2004
We've had this discussion before, but if something hadn't been done we would have lost a lot more of the named (is there a simple antonym for anonymous) posters. Myself, for example.
Ralph E. Luker - 3/29/2004
Oscar, You'd have to take that up with Rick. I know that he must have tired of deleting offending posts. I think that you aren't aware of the full burden of it -- spam posts which loaded 20 pharmaceutical ads in one blow, for example.
Oscar Chamberlain - 3/29/2004
I do wonder if we could return to anonymity at HNN and therefore this Blog, by keeping the registration requirement as a partial defense.
The current policy has cleared out most of the jerks, but I still suspect we lost some good companions.
Ophelia Benson - 3/27/2004
Golly, I've never had anything that bad. That sounds downright worrying. One would want to, as it were, reach through cyberspace and try to get him some help. Sad.
Ralph E. Luker - 3/27/2004
We had one poor offender at HNN, Ophelia, who was a bit like an alcoholic or a wife-abuser. Anonymously, he would vomit up the vilest sort of attack on people, repeat it and, then, after a verbal beating from more civil folk, he would become repentant, apologize and promise to offend no more. A few weeks later, he would appear and we'd go through the same round of assault (basically always repeating the same charges, no matter what the subject) and, ultimately, contrition again. Very peculiar. He'd already been banned on another site. Obviously seemed to need some sort of therapy.
Ophelia Benson - 3/27/2004
You've done gone and pre-empted me! I was going to comment on that post of Scott's too. Still am. I couldn't agree more about the anonymity. I've had quite a bit of that at B&W - anonymous people who latch on and just let fly, with zero inhibition about insults that they would never dream of using to people they knew (or who knew them). It's quite extraordinary. However I have noticed that after about the fourth or fifth time one points out that they are in fact anonymous and therefore behaving contemptibly, it appears to sink in at last and they shut up. Or else they just get bored, who knows.