Hey, I'm popular with (pseudo)anonymous bloggers!

Well no, not really.

Hits to my site are up quite a bit, and I didn’t really think of it much until I came across this post at the “Playing School, Irreverently. Basically, the “profgrrrrl” didn’t like the way I mentioned her blog in my blog the other day. Read the comments on the blog, and you’ll see what I mean.

Well. Let me again publicly apologize to the (pseudo)anonymous profgrrrl and her friends and fans. It’s not my intent to belittle or anything like that. Sorry if I hurt feelings.

But, at the risk of ticking people off more by writing under my own name and at my own blog, I thought I’d make a couple of observations about all this stuff:

* Obviously, I have a bit of a problem in terms of my own “identity” and “power” in this discussion because I’m a middle-aged and married white guy who is tenured. So when I say that I don’t think it’s true that women or the untenured need to hide behind a fake name in blogs or anywhere else, those women are going to say “Yeah, easy for you to say that, tenured male dog-pig!” I suppose they have a point.

Nonetheless, I still think what I’m getting at is true. Academia– or at least what I’ve been able to see of it up to this point– tends to reward the squeaky wheel. People who critique the system in intelligent ways tend to actually get positive attention from folks because academics, who tend to be pretty smart people, welcome these insights. Or at least academics recognize that they are supposed to welcome these insights. I’m not sure a lot of my administrative colleagues at EMU are “pleased” with the criticism they’re getting right now, but I am sure that they won’t publicly castigate faculty for complaining about things.

In any event, and maybe this is naive, I think it’s rare when someone faces reprisals in the world of academia for saying what they think in something like a blog space. I’ve always said that if the most famous of anonymous bloggers, the “Invisible Adjunct,” had published under her own name, she wouldn’t have been fired as an adjunct, and, in fact, she may have been hired into a tenure-track job.

* I personally have a hard time understanding why anyone would go through the effort of creating a somewhat elaborate pseudonym persona on an academic blog, an identity that includes a fake name, a fake school, a fake town, maybe even a fake discipline, just so that person can write about things in a public place they wouldn’t be able to write about otherwise. But okay, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that there are good reasons for doing this. It seems to me that there are at least two inevitable issues/problems.

First, once a writer writes something and posts it to the web on a blog for all to see, that writer more or less loses control of their text. In other words, once you post it to the world and make it available for linking and everything else, it isn’t yours anymore. Period. So if other readers interpret what you’re saying differently or don’t like what you’re saying, well, too bad, there’s nothing you can do about it. This is why I believe it is important for folks to think before they post and to recognize that, despite the fact that blogs frequently feel to writers and readers like a personal journal or diary, they really ultimately aren’t.

Second, I’m not sure that using a pseudonym/being anonymous is going to automatically protect you and allow you to say whatever you want. Now, having said that, I guess the Invisible Adjunct was able to protect herself with her pseudonym; however, she didn’t really say anything that mean or negative in a way that might get her in some kind of trouble. But if “profgrrrrl” really went off on her place of employment or on a colleague or a group of students, I have to think that she would be “outted.” And of course those bloggers who use pseudonyms are practicing a form of self censorship in order to protect their “real” identity anyway. So what’s the difference?

* Identity is a pretty strange thing, especially on the Internet. I could go on and on about this– and I kind of do in my dissertation, particularly in the fourth chapter— but in the nutshell, the nature of the medium (and I argue about this in terms of “the rhetorical situation,” but it’s easy enough to think about this in other ways too) makes identity extremely fluid. I always think of that famous New Yorker cartoon from the early 90s that shows two dogs sitting at a computer. One dog is talking to the other, and the caption reads “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Ain’t that the truth.

So I would contend that all of us– including me– create and recreate our identity(ies) all the time, certainly every time we write. I try to create some “order” with my identites by maintaining this “official” blog and my “unofficial” blog, but this too is a completely artificial construction of aspects of my identity, and it most certainly isn’t a complete or even partial picture of my identity. How could it be?

* I have to think that one of the appeals of maintaining an anonymous blog, academic or otherwise, is it’s a little bit, well, “naughty” and secretive and like wearing a costume or something. You know, like going in costume to a Star Trek convention: you can pretend to be a Vulcan or a Klingon. I guess that’s some peoples’ idea of fun, and I guess it’s harmless enough; but part of what I’m getting at is I think that the folks who create a pseudonym to blog with are doing it less to “protect” themselves and more because it’s fun to pretend.

That’s enough of that. I need to get on with the work of the day, the whole “teacher/scholar” thing…

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