Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More inconclusive stuff on pseudonyms

I've been working on getting back here to write (1) a more substantive post on France and Algeria and (2) continued reflections on pseudonymity online. But life keeps getting in the way these last few days, and -- wonder of wonders -- I'm actually managing to get some dissertation writing done, a phenomenon miraculous enough that I'm loathe to interrupt it for any reason.

So now just a short post to note that as the Publius-Whelan flap continued to play out, leading up to Whelan's surprising and laudable apology today (and Publius's characteristically gracious acceptance), some excellent, thought-provoking commentary on the issue of pseudonymity got put out there. Most helpful for me were posts that emphasized the category difference between pseudonymity and anonymity, and argued that a pseudonym, while it may serve as a shield, does at least produce a stable online "persona" who is thus subject to a certain kind of accountability and can be evaluated over time as reliable/unreliable/a real asshole/etc. I'm not entirely satisfied with this -- but then, as Matthew Yglesias points out, by that standard I probably shouldn't be entirely satisfied with the online persona of "Matthew Yglesias" either, without thoroughly investigating who the donors to the Center for American Progress Action Fund are, or ferreting around for possible ways he might be misrepresenting himself online.

(Note: I'm sidestepping here the whole issue of "outing" someone else, which everyone and their brother -- including, now Whelan himself -- seems to agree is just tacky and destructive. I'm more interested in the Q of whether someone -- me, say -- should be blogging under a pseudonym in the first place.)

Other posts I thought were useful besides the one from Yglesias: from a general perspective, Julian Sanchez , EotAW, and hilzoy; on the specific problem of blogging from within academia (and the even more specific problem of blogging from within academia as a woman), there's some interesting stuff up in the archives from the early years of Bitch Ph.D. And all of it leaves me....nowhere.

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