Cycle journalism and the social media: anonymity or pseudonymity?

I have enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy Lindsey’s writing, but on social media, I think Benson has it.

Joe Lindsey and Daniel Benson (via nyvelocity) both shared their views today on the relationship between print and online journalism, and between traditional journalism and blogging. I think the latter has the more balanced and constructive analysis. Benson even singles out for praise some examples of interesting non-mainstream internet sources, including @inrng and @cyclismas; Lindsey is pretty down on twitter and blogging, and even implies that we should be suspicious of @inrng purely based on his “anonymity” (@inrng chooses not to publish under his real name in order to separate it from his real work, both might be compromised otherwise: see his about page). I would encourage you to read both posts (and a sample from the excellent inrng.com) and see if you agree with my opinion. However, @inrng is not anonymous, he is pseudonymous, and this is a signal difference.

On the topic of pseudonymity, read this from scienceofblogging.com: there are many good reasons to remain pseudonymous: mine is that it would open me up to problems with my employers and from my students. It is also worth considering the acousmatic tradition of oratory recommended by Pythagorus, who would lecture from behind a screen so as to encourage a focus on the message as opposed to the orator. For a more technological/pragmatic argument in favour of pseudonymity (although it echoes Pythagorus), try this by Kee Hinckley, written in response to the real names policy on Google+:

Persistent pseudonyms aren’t ways to hide who you are. They provide a way to be who you are. You can finally talk about what you really believe; your real politics, your real problems, your real sexuality, your real family, your real self. Much of the support for “real names” comes from people who don’t want to hear about controversy, but controversy is only a small part of the need for pseudonyms. For most of us, it’s simply the desire to be able to talk openly about the things that matter to every one of us who uses the Internet. The desire to be judged—not by our birth, not by our sex, and not by who we work for—but by what we say.

Pseudonymity can of course hide bad intentions, but so can named journalism: the fawning over Lance Armstrong that characterised much bicycle journalism of the recent past has often been best combated from behind such a screen, here serving as protection from intimidation. More importantly, though, the scienceofblogging article above points out that:

(w)hile anyone can be “anonymous” and their voices will change all the time, a pseudonym is a fake name that is constant through time as one or more specific people with specific voices.  This means that you can, over time and with quality work, build up the trust of people who read you, and develop a reputation online as your pseudonym.

And this is what @inrng has achieved.

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4 Responses to Cycle journalism and the social media: anonymity or pseudonymity?

  1. Joe Papp says:

    Of course pseudonymity also permits some to create alternate realities for themselves in which they present idealized personifications that occupy positions of relevance (in their own minds) unattainable in “real-life.”

    • spandelles says:

      Absolutely, delusion and fantasy are rife amongst the pseudonymous: but it doesn’t take internet anonymity for that to flourish;-) I think plenty of those with real names on twitter and suchlike are pretty delusional. And some without real names talk a lot of sense… hard to legislate I guess, hence going back to whether the words deserve attention or not.

  2. […] at odds, though, with the concept of Twitter. I was alerted to an excellent piece by @spandelles (Cycle journalism and the social media). The article, and it’s links, refer to the science of blogging, and why anonymity give you a […]

  3. I think you are spot on with post and remain so 2 years after the event – pseudonymity has its place, provided you don’t spout abuse or defame people. Conversely, I made a conscious decision to blog and post in my own name when I started. I didn’t want to write anything I wouldn’t be comfortable saying to their face.

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