And as you go fishing, think about this hypothetical: You meet someone. You begin the conversation by putting out your hand and introduce yourself. Instead of shaking your hand, the other person hides her face and doesn't offer a name. What's the impression you get?
Awkward? Disrespectful? Shy? Finnish?
That hypothetical got me to wondering if we can accept anonymity as a template for real neighborly conversation. The Internet is a different medium with different rules and different possibilities... but it's still human interaction. Worthwhile communication still requires some basic human respect... and isn't responding to an introduction with your name and a handshake part of respect?
I've got a dissertation on the blogosphere in the works (expect a call from me, fellow bloggers!), so I've been thinking quite a bit about the impact of anonymity on the sense of community we can build online. The hostility anonymity can unleash is obvious to even casual readers. Yet anonymity can also open the door for unexpected insights. How to choose?
You can Google up a number of suggestions for the opposite of anonymity: identity, accountability, nymity, anonanonymity.... I like nymity for novelty, brevity, and assonance... but identity will likely be the scholarly choice.
You can find plenty of other perspectives on anonymity and its opposites at these sites:
- Katie Rae, "Anonymity in a Crowd of Voices," K-Pinion, 2009.03.31
- Bill Larson, "Local Newspaper's New Online Community Has Led to the Worst Behavior," Clarksville Online, 2007.04.10
- Dave Amis, "Net Anonymity: Free Speech or Cheap Words?" Spiked-IT, 2001.02.26
- Steve Yelvington, "Ano-, Pseudo- ... What's the Best -Nymity?" Poynter Online, 2006.01.31
- Homer Wilson Smith, "The Winds of War: Act 91," 1995.09.11
Stay tuned: more to come! in the meantime, your thoughts are welcome. Oh, by the way, my name is Cory Allen Heidelberger. What was yours again?