29 July 2011

Kee Hinckley - On Pseudonymity, Privacy, and Responsibility on Google+

Today's article is from Technosocial.

Kee Hinckley makes a really important argument here, and one to which I really connected in a lot of ways.

In reading this, I found myself thinking persistently about Ender's Game (partly because Hinckley makes a Demosthenes reference at one point) - perhaps, in some ways, being able to speak via a persona rather than via your physical body is the only way to let your ideas be judged fairly.

This is something that I have to deal with every day that I teach. My students are going to trust / believe in / give weight to my words more than they are their own or each others', just because of the position of power that I occupy in the classroom - which can be useful if, say, one student is verbally attacking another and I have to step in (this happens sometimes when you discuss controversial issues), but has also led, in a couple of instances, to my (quite unintentionally) killing a discussion that might have brought us to some quite provocative and interesting places.

Point is, there are always power dynamics at play; establishing a pseudonym is one way to level the playing field a little bit (though, as Lisa Nakamura and others have pointed out, it is itself a fraught move).

Useful, if utopian, quote from the article:
Persistent pseudonyms aren't ways to hide who you are. They provide a way to be who you are. You can finally talk about what you really believe; your real politics, your real problems, your real sexuality, your real family, your real self. Much of the support for "real names" comes from people who don't want to hear about controversy, but controversy is only a small part of the need for pseudonyms. For most of us, it's simply the desire to be able to talk openly about the things that matter to every one of us who uses the Internet. The desire to be judged—not by our birth, not by our sex, and not by who we work for—but by what we say.
I find that kind of a beautiful statement of what Hinckley is trying to say.

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