Friday, February 24, 2006

Pseudonymity, Blogging as a Genre, Etc.

Tragically, my first attempt at this post was lost. Suffice it to say, that I want to move the discussion of the IHE article and pseudonymity and the genre of blogging up into a new thread. In this new thread, here are some things I'd like to see:

1) Would commenters please engage with each others' ideas? I'm not interested in reading well thought out comments that are punctuated with, "But see, that's why you're a petty jerk." Those don't do anything to up the ante on the discourse. Move on from being ticked off (i have), and let's have the conversation. Oh, and if anybody implies that a comment doesn't have value because the person who writes it has a pseudonym, or uses the fact that a person has a pseudonym as evidence for a claim, I'm going to assume that you want that comment deleted. In this space, whatever your feelings elsewhere, you've got to demonstrate respect for people with pseudonyms. Why? Well, because I use one, of course. And this is my playground and I'll run it as I see fit.

2) I think it's worthwhile to include the backlog of discussion (or paraphrased versions of it) that has occurred about the practice of using pseudonyms in this discussion, from way back in the day (think July 2004) to the present. That said, I'll direct you to a post from my old blog that I think articulates a lot of issues that continue to be at stake in the current debate.

3) Perhaps part of this discussion should also include a consideration of whether and how "popular" media like IHE influence how we're characterizing this genre (blogging) and the sub-genre (academic blogging). I'm coming to the conclusion that the main problem here is IHE and not actual bloggers.

4) I'm interested in thinking about the politics of referring to a blogger as anonymous vs. referring to a blogger as pseudonymous.

5) If you have posted on your blog about this topic and/or if you've seen a post that you think I'd be interested in, please do link to it. I lost the first version of this post in which I did link to some relevant posts at other blogs, but having lost it I just don't have it in me to go back and do it right now. (And I've got to go buy something to wear tonight that is neither inappropriately slutty nor something that I would teach in. It's a tough balance to strike, that one.)

All right, well, that's all folks! Let the games begin!


chutry said...

I'm never sure whether to refer to a blog as anonymous or pseudonymous, but psedonymous sounds more precise to me, if only because there is a name attached to the blog (New Kid, Dr. Crazy, etc), and there is something at stake in making that name seem "trustworthy" for lack of a better term. I'm not thinking of trust only in the "documentary" sense but in the sense of an "authentic" voice (too much post-structuralism--I have to hide behind scare quotes).

I've tried to be clear that I think both pseudonymous blogs and blogs authored under someone's professional name can be rewarding even if their doing vastly different things (raises a question: are there multiple genres of academic blogs?).

I don't have a pseudonymous blog, but last week when I had some weird job issues, I really wish I had. I generally don't read IHE unless I know someone being pub'd there (and I do know Jeff personally) simply because I find that their engagement with the academic blogosphere is somewhat limiting. They almost always point to anecdotal posts about teaching or about department politics in my experience. These issues aren't unimportant, but I find it difficult to engage with those topics on my blog.

[Sorry for such a long comment]


chutry said...

Oh, jeez, I just realized I used the wrong "their" in my last comment.

And I call myself an English teacher.....

susan said...

I only read IHE when someone publishes a piece there that bloggers start talking about, so I have the same view of IHE that I suspect IHE fosters of particular blogs: I only see the controversy-inducing columns and not much else.

I did Bitch PhD's survey on blogging and pseudonymity the other day and that got me thinking about all these issues even before Jeff's article started all this discussion. Crazy, your posts and New Kid's have done a great job raising the issues of blogging and persona. I'm not sure what to say about the politics of referring to people as anon. or pseudo.: I think the more crucial issue is that of persona. In a way, people with pseudonyms are clearly saying "look, here is a persona I'm creating." I'm not sure what people like me are doing--I mean, I use my (presumably) real first name but otherwise have pseudonyms for people on my blog (a choice made by a number of bloggers in the blogs I read--Geeky Mom, for example). But I'm still creating a persona, and people who know me IRL would probably say that my online persona has clear relationships to the physical, corporeal me. But it's a persona nonetheless. (But then, I create a persona when I head into the office every day, in a way. I'm acting in a way that creates certain images of me as a professor, teacher, administrator. And I'm acting, on the job, in ways that try to bring into being an academic reality I strive for.)

And on another element of your call for more discussion here: on genre. Genre and subgenre don't totally get at the relationship between blogging/academic blogging. Part of what's been clear--and New Kid has said this much more eloquently--is that it's not clear what academic blogging is. (Is my blog an academic blog? I'm an academic, with a blog, although I don't blog about academic stuff all that often. I often feel like I should be blogging about professional issues more, but for various reasons I've so far tended to post a lot more about adoption and parenting. Yet my academic orientation has a lot to do with how I approach parenting. Which is sort of an academic issue.) We blog for all kinds of reasons, about all kinds of things, and blogging is a genre that allows for all kinds of shifts in content and even style. (Your blog is a great example of the fluidity: you blog about professional issues one day, classroom issues another, dating another.) Maybe what's driving some of the recent debate is we all have different genre categories for blogging and we're not reading/categorizing in the same way. So as a genre, then, blogging's fluidity seems to invite conflicts about what the genre is.

or something like that: it's been a long week. But I'm glad you're writing about this here. I've enjoyed the discussion you're guiding.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I remember the anoymous/pseudonymous thing coming up before, and I think Rana had a response along the lines that a pseudonym was different from no name - that the pseudonym created an identity in a way that something completely unnamed doesn't. E.g., New Kid is accountable in comment boxes for what she says, whereas anonymous isn't. That made a lot of sense to me.

And in terms of the pseudonym - there are some things that are bothering me quite a lot now (nothing to do with blogging as a subject) that I'd love to blog about, but I can't get past the idea that "New Kid on the Hallway" has a certain image to maintain, that there are certain things that are much more "appropriate" for me to talk about, given the persona I've created in that space. (Not sure if that's exactly relevant, but I thought I'd throw it in there.)

chutry said...

New Kid, your discussion of what you can say (or can't say) in the "New Kid" space is interesting, and I'd agree with Rana's comment that there is a huge difference between psudonymous and anonymous.


Kate said...

Hey Dr. Crazy, I started putting together everyone's links in one post over at my blog; the permalink is here:

I only have about five folks up there so far, so I hope folks will let me know who I'm missing.

Bardiac said...

I think New Kid is absolutely right here on the point about pseudonymous vs anonymous bloggers, how pseudonymous bloggers have a persona or image to maintain. I feel like I work on that issue fairly often when I blog, deciding what's not game for the Bardiac persona, which is different in some important ways from my teaching or office personae.

missscarlet said...

Some questions: what constitutes an "academic" blog, why is the pseudonym somehow more stigmatized for "academic" bloggers, and could this stigma point to an implicit and potentially reductive distinction between "academic" and non-academic writing in general? I.e., that "academic" blogging, like "academic" writing, is considered sealed off from the sphere of fiction, where the persona and the "untruth" are credible and valued conventions? I.e., will academic blogs employing pseudonyms always be judged as if they are, in fact, anonymous, because the persona is thought of belonging *properly* to creative writing, and thus employing it for "academic" persuits points out the fictive qualities of *all* writing, something many are uncomfortable with? Just a thought.

Shaun Huston said...

This discussion prompted me to take a look at my own blog. On the one hand, it isn't intended to be anonymous or pseudonymous. On the other, from the main page it is virtually impossible to find mention of an author - even the footers for the entries lack a "posted by" line. Someone could refer to me as "(polk)modern," and that would be fine, but not my intent. When I started the blog I was thinking about my theme and purpose, but not so much about my authorship. What I mostly write about, pop culture and primarily film and tv, is a subject that occupies my teaching and research, but the way that I write about these things on the blog is very different from the way I write and speak about them in academic settings. Anyone who wants to know who I am can easily find that out by clicking on the link to my "About" page, where you can also learn that I am an academic interested in film and tv. However, from the main page, none of this is readily apparent (I'm sure that there are some folks in psych out there who could have a field day with my - unintentional - failure to identify myself as "author" in any form on the main page of my blog).

What this self-examination led me to conclude is that an either/or way of thinking about these issues, as in, either I write as "myself" or with a "pseudonym," either I write an "academic" blog or a "non-academic" blog, either my blogging identity is "non-academic" while my real identity is as an "academic," etc., is far too simplistic to capture the meaning, purpose, and significance of blogging and what people are trying to do with their blogs. These spaces seem more interstitial than strictly falling on one axis or another (and thanks to Dr. Crazy for her deconstruction of "Jeff Rice," clearly one of the smartest pieces of this whole dialogue and the one that got me thinking about my own blog).

Larry said...

I prefer "agnostinymous" since there clearly is a name (e.g. Dr. Crazy), but we don't know for sure that the name is false (a pseudonym).

Yahoo People Search found 26 people surnamed "Crazy" in the U.S. Interestingly, only two names came up twice: "Daisy Crazy" (Tampa, FL and Tecumseh, MI) and (initials) D.R. Crazy (both in Melville, Montana).

I haven't had the opportunity to check whether any of these Crazys (especially the suspiciously initialed "D.R. Crazy") has a Ph.D, however doing so wouldn't necessarily be definitive anyway. Any one of these Crazys could have an M.D., a D.D.S., a D.V.M., etc.

Indeed, were this blog the product of dentist's fancy, how much more impressive a feat of imagination! (pace Pierre Menard, etc.)

Dr. Crazy said...

Hi everybody,
I'm thinking about a lengthy post that responds to the comments here (and elsewhere) and tries to bring some of these things together, but I've got

a. An MA thesis to read.
b. My annual performance review.
c. Grading.
d. Suitors a-plenty with whom to correspond.

It'll be coming in the next day or two. At any rate, keep the discussion going if you'd like - I'm finding it really interesting to read what everybody's writing here.

Phobok said...

I like to make a game out of finding out the real world identity of pseudonymous bloggers. Anonymous/pseudonymous bloggers tread a fine line, because in order to write well, you have put some of yourself into it, and some of the details you share inevitably are based on reality. Those little details can be pieced together, sometimes just enough to figure out who someone actually is. In the end, though, discovering someone's "real" identity turns out to be completely UNilluminating, because I still have no idea who that person "really" is. Even though I've actually figured out who Dr. Crazy really is, her blog still seems like a regular old pseudonymous blog to me, because Dr. _____ isn't any more a real person to me than Dr. Crazy.

Barry said...

I suspect that a potential answer to misscarlet's question about why the pseudonym is somehow more stigmatized for "academic" bloggers is that they tend to be read by a mainly academic audience, an audience which just loves to create theories about stuff, and to interrogate such matters.

I can't really imagine the folks with a background in computers having much of a problem with it, as they'll probably have a background in usenet and, before that, BBS where having an avatar was the norm.

The rest of the world probably just doesn't care.