Friday, November 17, 2006

On Clinging to a Pseudonym Long after It's Lost It's Utility

Ok, so after all of the crap of the last week, I think that everybody here probably knows who I "really" am. And yet, I have no plans to stop being Dr. Crazy. And I've thought a bit about this, wondering why that is. So let me just lay it out for everybody here, if you care:

1. When I say I don't want the blog to be google-able under my real name, what I mean is that I don't want any stranger I meet to be able to google my real-life name and find the blog. I'm single and dating (well, or not dating, but I would date - I'e not ruled it out) and there are a lot of fucked up people in the world. I also want the choice of who reads it in connection with me (as much as I can have such a choice) in terms of professional contacts. I don't particularly want people to have access to the blog without choosing to give it to them in those circumstances. Now, if people choose to use any number of clues to figure the real-life name out, while I don't get it, I don't care all that much.

2. I don't want to feel like this needs to be a space on which I write only "professional" material. I know - male academics write blogs under their own names and they don't stick only to "professional" topics. But let me tell you: I've got no model for that in terms of a woman doing it, and so until I become brave enough to be a pioneer in this regard, well, I will continue to stay Crazy.

3. It actually kind of pisses me off that people persist in their interest in who the fuck I am - you know, really. Why does that matter? My readers are great, and I do think it is kind of the many people have emailed me (over the years that I've been blogging - not just this week) to warn me that they were able to "figure me out" with whatever methods they've used. I will say, though, that I will never understand the desire to sleuth around to find me out. Why the fuck does it matter? When you find out my name, do you really know any more than you know from what I write here? You know where I work. You might even be able to read my publications, if you're really motivated. But does that give you some kind of insight that you wouldn't otherwise have? In truth? I really don't think so. And if you want to know who I am, just send me an email - I tell most people. Why be all cloak and dagger about "figuring out" who I am? Because I'm many things, but I'm not particularly cloak and dagger about much, and every time somebody tells me that they've done all this detective work to figure out who I am, I always feel a little bit violated. Why not just respect the conceit that Dr. Crazy is who I am? Or if you don't respect that, why not keep it to yourself that you don't - because when you reveal it to me - in however well-intentioned a way - I often feel like that translates into a disrespect for me. I mean, I'm not actually trying to keep the blog a "secret" even if I don't want it immediately connected with my professional identity. That makes perfect sense to me, even if it apparently doesn't to anybody else. The pseudonym isn't really about being afraid at all, or at least not in the way that people think.

I don't know. I've thought a lot about what it would mean not to use a pseudonym. But I don't want to be forced into that decision, should I ever choose to make it. But I also don't want to write about my pseudonym or having one or anything else for a while. So, if by some super-secret detective work you put two and two together from details in posts and you figure out who I am, don't tell me. I don't really want to think about right now. Mainly because the more I think about it the more exhausting blogging becomes and the less I want to continue doing it.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

What I've contemplated doing is keeping a full-disclosure blog about academia, research, teaching, etc... and having a separate (pseudo-anonymous) blog for personal stuff like shopping, TV, romance, etc.... That way I am google-able to a certain extent, but I still have a private getaway for rants and ravings. Some people would know that both of them are me, but for the most part I would try to keep the two separate.

Tree of Knowledge said...

If it makes you feel any better, I missed the outing fiasco this week (mental breakdown busy), so I don't know who you "really" are and haven't tried to find out. You'll always be Dr. Crazy to me, until you decide to change that.

I think that people who try to figure out who bloggers really are have far too much time on their hands anyway, and have kinda missed the point of blogging (at least for me)--it's the words that matter, not the identity behind them. The only identity that matters is the one that the writing creates, and that can't be validated by attaching a "real" name to it.

Anonymous said...

Having recently moved from a name-attached blog to a vaguely anonymous one (as if most readers don't know), I can say that reason 2 is why I switched. I think folks around here were beginning to read the blog, and I'm not sure what they thought about hearing the results of my personality test alongside my writing frustrations alongside my teaching practices. Sure, they're all part of the persona, but need they be part of the life of the department? Hardly. And so I switched.

I think I'm less concerned about being found out, but for me, severing any perceived official connection between the blog and the institution is freeing for me.

So hear! hear! for remaining anonymous. Whether readers "know" or not is probably, mostly, incidental. That you can stake a claim to crafting a public identity that is distinguishable (legally, too) from your institution is important.

Katherine said...

Like Tree, I missed the outing fiasco so I don't know who you are IRL and haven't tried to find out.

I really don't get why people do all this sleuthing--too much time on their hands? OCD? Sherlock Holmes syndrome?--and I see it as a violation.

negativecapability said...

I've known who you really are since you last accidentally put your real name in a post (when was that? sometime before you moved spaces?). I'll admit, I googled you because I was curious about what you worked on because we're in the same general field, but after that I forgot about it. And I'm like you, I tell pretty much anyone who e-mails me who I am. I just don't want people who live HERE to know that I have a blog.

I LIKE reading people with pseudonyms. It's the whole point of reading blogs for me. I have no idea what Dr. Real Name is like, but I like Dr. Crazy :)

Bardiac said...

Like you, I don't want people to google my name and hit my blog, but a couple of people have figured me out in various ways. It weirds me out a bit that anyone would care to figure me out, but I try not to worry about it. It's worrisome in some ways, though.

I don't know how to balance things sometimes. I wish I did.

Marcelle Proust said...

Why figure it out? Because your readers are academics and think research is fun. I don't make a practice of it, and I don't know who you are, but I have worked out a couple of other bloggers just because of being in the right place at the right time, so to speak, and catching clues they dropped. I've never said anything about it, because it's really none of my business, and I agree that it makes no difference to the blog discussion. But there is a weird rush to solving a real-life problem (maybe more so for lit and history people than for scientists and social scientists, who do that all the time).

life_of_a_fool said...

I also missed any identifying comments on your blog, and so have no idea who you are, though I've been reading for awhile.

I do, however, understand why people would be curious and try to figure it out. I am curious, largely for the reasons marcelle proust gives above. It's a minor bit of detective work, and you can put a "real person" to the words, like putting a face to a name.

But even though I am curious and while I think most people do this as a bit of harmless fun for themselves, I would take it as vaguely threatening and/or a violation to find out that someone had done this to me. I wouldn't tell someone (unless it seemed necessary for some reason) that I had done this, and I wouldn't want to know if someone (especially a stranger) had done it to me. So, I also understand your frustration and irritation with the whole thing, and I'm sorry you've gone through this lately. I'm sure I am one of many who hopes this doesn't lead you to stop blogging.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I missed the outing as well... and it doesn't really matter to me who you are :) -- I like Dr. Crazy and would really miss her.

I've only worked backwards from blog to 'real person' once, when I found a blog from someone that I thought was at my school. It wasn't hard to figure out -- it was much more difficult to know what to do with the information. This blog was pretty personal and much more anonymous than my own. I didn't want to blow their opportunity to vent and get support, so I didn't say anything. It ended up that the blogger figured me out -- and as such figured out that I'd been reading for a while...

I think it is just mean to fully out someone. An e-mail to try to confirm an identity is sufficient.

Addy N. said...

Like several other posters, I also missed the 'outing', so I also don't know who you are! So, you shouldn't feel like the world knows! I've figured out where some bloggers are (since statcounter gives locations, it's easy to figure out for people who visit my blog). I find that more interesting than who people actually are, since I can then relate to what kind of U they work in, or how the weather is there!

Anonymous said...

The veil between the "real me" and the "electronic me" varies in thickness along an unknown curve. I, like many of your commentators, don't really research psuedononymous bloggers; it's just not in my realm of interests. Some have identified themselves to me, and I to others. Recently, a correspondent here in Cold City sent me a super nice email offering to have coffee with me and hang out. I was pleased, but also a little disarmed: How did this person know my Cold City was their Cold City? A number of people here know who I am (not at my home institution), but still. Did word get around or was she able to fugure it out or am I that transparent?

In any event, I didn't lie and say, "Oh no, I'm in this other Cold City, not that one." So, we're gonna meet up. But, as has been said here before, the difference between malicious outing and cluelessness is important, but again can be a fine difference. In my original incarnation, I was outed by the now-married partner of another blogger who, participating in a comment thread, hit correctly upon my identity, causing the Invisible Adjunct to delete the whole thing and send me an email. I was so clueless I wasn't even doing a blog roll. I didn't know anyone was reading me, much less speculating on where I was. Was that malicious? I'm not sure, even though at the time that particular blogger had a pretty strong rep online, and had guarded their own identity so strongly that many still don't know who they were (I do because of the serendipitous connection with the other blogger, but I digress).

But that was a long time ago, in a different universe. Sometimes blogging can feel like being an Amsterdam sex worker, behind a plate glass window while half the world passes by. You're not sure who's looking, but looking is part of the whole experience. But between "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" and "Pretty Woman," I think we all want to be a little "Klute," especially with Jane Fonda's fabulous shag. Exhibition and performance and yes, pleasure, are all part of it, but it doesn't mean we want to be pawed like a piece of meat. Negative Capability has a nice post on the generosity of psuedononymous blogging, which I think is the correct tack to take. The "Unsolved Mysteries" quality of invesitgating the psuedononymous blogger is, in general, usualy not generous, certainly not to the extent that blogging, whether secretly, publicly, evidently or in an opaque manner, whichever, is a contribution to a conversation.

MaggieMay said...

I just want to say: Because I only check in about twice a week, I have no idea who you are :) Also--I'm with you and Oso. I don't really understand the "sleuthing" desire. While I've exchanged "real" identities with a few bloggers out there, I have no interest in trying to deduce who this or that person is.

prefer not to say said...

I haven't got the slightest idea who you are.

And I wouldn't want to know - what if it turns out you wrote an article I think is completely wrong? Or reviewed my last book and totally slammed it? What if you stole my last lover because you were bolder and funnier and had better bras?

undine said...

I didn't see the identifying post and wouldn't have looked you up if I had. Like several of your other commenters, I'd find it kind of a violation to do that. Also, wouldn't that defeat the purpose? Here in blogworld (or blogistan, or the blogosphere) we have a nice community that's mostly free of the kinds of academic performances, departmental politics, and so on that we have to deal with IRL.

luolin said...

You're still Dr. Crazy to me as well. I missed the gaffe and a week of updates due to some disconnect between blogger and my browser.

Like you, I don't want to be google-able. I'm not super careful about my life or location. If someone who knows me figures out from reading who I am, I won't mind so much (I don't think) but I don't want just anyone to be able to find out about the side of me that is in my blog.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I missed it, too. And like I said earlier, I don't ever look. It's kind of immaterial to me.