Anonymous personas bring out the best, not just the worst, in some

Thursday, 30 June, 2011

Anonymous personas, as often seen online, can have two influences on those adopting them… they can bring out the actual nature of a person’s character, be that positive or negative, or, in what isn’t really news to anyone, they can embolden people to express themselves more frankly than they otherwise would.

When people lose their inhibitions, they often behave in a manner more consistent with their true motives or character. At the same time, they also tend to be more easily influenced by their environment. “In effect, disinhibition can both reveal and shape the person, as contradictory as that may sound,” Professor Galinsky said. The end result is that power, alcohol and anonymity can all inspire either strong pro- or anti-social sentiments in people. The study may help explain why anonymous commentators on the web often appear to hold extreme views.

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The cloak of online anonymity can make even good people trolls

Thursday, 2 December, 2010

Anonymity, especially online anonymity, given the way it can change the behaviour of some people, is more like the digital equivalent of a mind-altering drug…

Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People – even ordinary, good people – often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.

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This is serious mum, anonymous bands can also be successful

Thursday, 2 September, 2010

If anonymity fosters creativity online, how about in other arenas? Melbourne based Australian band, TISM, an acronym for “This Is Serious Mum”, were active from the early 1980s through to the mid-2000s, and wrote and played a satirically charged blend of alternative rock/dance songs.

The members successfully managed to conceal their identities through out most of this period by adopting pseudonyms such as Ron Hitler-Barassi, Eugene de la Hot-Croix Bun, and Les Miserables, and wearing costumes or balaclavas, during shows and other public appearances.

They released six albums and four EPs between 1986 and 2004, with their 1995 album, “Machiavelli and the Four Seasons”, going gold. Three of its tracks were also voted into triple j’s Hottest 100 – two of them making the top ten – for the same year.

The band last performed in 2004, and although there is no talk of another album, or any shows, they declare themselves to be on an indefinite hiatus, rather than disbanded.

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Online anonymity, creativity thrives where failure is anonymous

Thursday, 2 September, 2010

4chan, the online community and imageboard which has given the world memes such as LOLcats and rickrolling, where the belief is anonymity – which is encouraged – promotes creativity:

Names, in other words, make failure costly, thus discouraging even the attempt to succeed. By the same token, namelessness makes failure cheap – nearly costless, reputation-wise, in a setting like 4chan, where the Anonymous who posted a lame joke five minutes ago might well be the same Anonymous who’s mocking it hilariously right now. And as the social-media theorist Clay Shirky has suggested in another context (explaining how the plummeting costs of networked collaboration encourage, say, a thousand open-source software projects to launch for every one that gets anywhere), the closer a community gets to “failure for free,” the better its chances of generating success.

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The day we need online identity cards may not be far away

Wednesday, 3 February, 2010

The expectation of complete online anonymity will become increasingly unsustainable as regulation, and steps to combat cyber-crime, intensify.

The truth of the matter is, the Internet is still in its Wild West phase. To a large extent, the law hasn’t yet shown up. Yet as more and more people move to town, that lawlessness is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. As human societies grow over time they develop more rigid standards for themselves in order to handle their increased size. There is no reason to think the Internet shouldn’t follow the same pattern.

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Bill Wasik: anonymous ideas are ideas that stand alone

Wednesday, 1 July, 2009

Sometimes preserving the anonymity of an idea’s instigator can allow the thought to be assessed on its own merits rather than being dismissed or ridiculed should, say, that person be considered persona non grata, says Bill Wasik.

Anonymity can be useful not just to cloak your identity or to try to fool people. It allows people who might pass something along to not be too caught up in the question of “who’s behind this?”. Instead, the idea exists on its own terms, which makes people a little more inclined to actually press Forward on the email.

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Blogger cop Night Jack named, the end of anonymous blogging?

Thursday, 18 June, 2009

Night Jack, a blog written by an anonymous British detective which I linked to in April after it won the Orwell special prize for blogs, has been taken off-line after the British High Court allowed the previously secret identity of its author to be published.

In a landmark decision, Mr Justice Eady refused to grant an order to protect the anonymity of a police officer who is the author of the NightJack blog. The officer, Richard Horton, 45, a detective constable with Lancashire Constabulary, had sought an injunction to stop The Times from revealing his name.

The High Court ruling however could have ramifications for many bloggers who write anonymously:

Hugh Tomlinson, QC, for Mr Horton, had argued that “thousands of regular bloggers… would be horrified to think that the law would do nothing to protect their anonymity if someone carried out the necessary detective work and sought to unmask them”. Mr Tomlinson said that Mr Horton wished to remain anonymous and had taken steps to preserve his anonymity. But Mr Justice Eady said that the mere fact that the blogger wanted to remain anonymous did not mean that he had a “reasonable expectation” of doing so or that The Times was under an enforceable obligation to him to maintain that anonymity.

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