Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ScienceOnline'09: Anonymity, Pseudonymity

Abel Pharmboy and PalMD moderated this session, which touched upon the pros and cons of anonymous or pseudonymous blogging, including the added challenges faced by female bloggers. Great group discussion on various angles of anonymous/pseudonymous blogging, including the ability to remain anonymous/pseudonymous, the reasons various people choose to blog openly or not, and how to balance visible and less visible online selves.
  • Abel Pharmboy started blogging when working for a non-profit research organization and would've jumped through too many hoops to blog under real name
  • pseudonym acknowledges his field (pharmacology) and one of his field's pioneers (John J. Abel)
  • when going back to academe Abel was able to "come out" as himself
  • after his name was revealed, Abel asked readers if they'd trust him more if he wrote under his real name; majority said no, they didn't care
  • PalMD's pseudonym consists of his initials and his career
  • it's an illusion that writing anonymously/pseudonymously allows more freedom
  • anonymity will often get blown, or at the least people with figure out who they *think* you are
  • if using anonymity as a level of protection in medical blogging to protect patients, think through implications of cover being blown because it hits patient privacy too
  • female bloggers have an added issue of being cyberstalked
  • protection of anonymity/pseudonymity also extends to family
  • avoiding Google is desire for some to blog anonymously/pseudonymously
  • desire to be evaluated on merit of CV and person, not blogging
  • need for support for personal life [or personal aspect of professional life]
  • people get more "press" when writing letter to editor than on blog, but concept of owning one's opinions in these mediums different
  • what about bloggers' First Amendment rights? First Amendment doesn't protect what others say on your blog
  • is masking of identity intrinsically antithetical to society?
  • times when pseudonymity can come back to bite you: when story hits wider audience, given less credence/legitimacy/credibility
  • when part of an inward-looking network, sense of peer-review forms and will get blasted, regardless of persona so no protection there
  • when blogging under real name people feel they know you even though you only share one side of yourself
  • if trying to put genie back in the bottle (either after outing or adopting pseudonym after blogging under real name), go over to a different blog and try to write in a different voice; use UK spellings/grammar if in US and vice versa; readers are smart and will put 2+2 together to continue following you
  • would think if Nature supports blogging then researchers would embrace but they don't
  • if you want to maintain a pseudonymous blog alongside real name blog best if subjects don't overlap
  • blogging pseudonymously allows for greater integration of different parts of life for some
  • can blog pseudonymously but not anonymously to allow some to have different persona than in real life
  • shouldn't blog pseudonymously to attack people
  • threat and fear of outings can put damper on community and willingness to share even more than actual outing incidents

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