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Live at Leeds

I can’t ever resist a good discussion of online identity. This one seems to me to assume that pseudonyms must by nature be fragmentary. I think that this is true if you assume that our online identities are discrete units, without overlap, but I also think that such an assumption would be false.

I can’t speak for the law bloggers whom TPH discusses, but for me, a pseudonym shares many aspects of the “real” me. Alice, at least, seems to agree with that. I speak English; so do my theoretical pseudonyms. I’m sarcastic; so, generally, are they. On the occasions when I’ve had reason to construct a shield around my identity, it’s been a matter of thinking about what I want to change rather than building a persona from scratch.

(Once I went so far as to deliberately change my punctuation habits, since my semi-colons are fairly distinctive to those who know me. I suspect most law bloggers don’t go as far. Should they? Would your professor recognize your writing style? Ah well; I digress.)

So, in any case, I have to disagree. Pseudonyms don’t diminish, because they aren’t necessarily limited.

TPH also says that he wants the “psychological benefit that comes from identifying myself with the things that I say…” which is an understandable desire. I don’t write for publication under a pseudonym because I want people to know that’s me. However, I’d suggest that you can also gain psychological benefits from constructing a well-known persona. Specifically, it can be proof that your ideas stand up even when separated from any biases people may have regarding you specifically.

Also, in time, your pseudonym may well gain the same sort of respect that you have — and then it’s just a matter of whether or not you identify with that pseudonym. My online chat nickname is Garrett, and it’s not a separate personality, but I do have somewhat different habits when I’m speaking under that name. This is no different than the salaryman who behaves one way at the office and another at home. Does he find his workplace achievements less meaningful because they’re attached to a somewhat different persona? No, and I don’t find praise directed to Garrett to be much different than praise directed to Bryant. It’s all me at the core.

I think, finally, that the concept of writing anonymously as opposed to pseudonomously is a bit of a straw man. At the very worst, in the blog world, you’re identified by your URL. On Usenet, your email address is an identifier. I don’t know many (if any) who have chosen to write each individual packet of words with absolutely no identifying information whatsoever.

This meandering brought to you courtesy of the aforementioned Alice, whose links are of superior quality.

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