Cybersquatting My Alternate Identity

Not Really a Blog Post

Posted on: 29 January 2011

Just the only good place to put stuff longer than twitter. I don’t really use this blog obviously, and post was written quickly, not really for circulation, just for Katrina.

Let me note that “daiyami” is not a pseudonym, in my opinion. It’s google-proofed, sure, but it’s a phonetic variation on my legal name; the avatar I use for it is all over my personal university website; and anybody who knows me, including my students, would recognize me in a heartbeat. Any outsider who wanted to identify which historian in Eugene Oregon was daiyami would probably figure it out in about five minutes, quicker if they were regular followers on twitter. So that’s not a pseudonym. It’s actually not even much of a persona. However, I do strongly believe in the choice to use a pseudonym—there are many contexts in which I choose to use one—and I’m interested in how names and identities work, and how that’s changed in the age of the internet.

So, twelve paragraph blog post by Katrina Gulliver. All I’m trying to do here is explain what’s in there that would piss off pseudonymous bloggers.

A really good strong claim that blogging under your own name can lead to fame and fortune, supported with great examples of Sharon Howard, Lucy Inglis, etc. That’s paragraphs 5, 6, 10, 11. That’s excellent. No one contests that. This point could have been made without ever referring to pseudonymous blogging, incidentally.

But, there’s a lot of other stuff in the post as well.

Paragraph 1: just an intro, but sets up the notion that eponym versus pseudonym is the theme of the post.

Paragraph 2: suffused with the notion that the only reason to use a pseudonym is fear. Pseudonymous bloggers have debunked this over and over again.

Paragraph 3: interesting but undeveloped ideas about three different topics: googling candidates (really, the idea it’s unethical has faded away? If you can’t ask if people are married, how can you google them? I’m skeptical); the value of blogging as writing; the question of privacy.

Paragraph 4: “A blog is not a personal notebook.” Um, why not? Who says it can’t be? Where did that come from? What’s with this notion there’s only one definition of a blog?

“It is a form that exists for the purpose of broadcasting one’s thoughts (fully-formed or otherwise) to an audience.” Sure. But nothing says that broadcast has to be in the service of building a career, except this post.

Really really interesting but undeveloped and quite insulting metaphor that a pseudonymous blog is like a stripper pretending not to be a stripper. (I would have really liked to see this fleshed out more.) Total silence on the reality that there are multiple audiences for every blog, and that some are desired and some are not, and those dynamics have nothing to do with eponym vs. pseudonym. Ta-Nehesi Coates doesn’t want tea party members posting talking points about affirmative action on his thoughtful posts about race.

Paragraph 7: really interesting but undeveloped idea about gender imposture, but still trapped in the notion that the only reason people use pseudonyms is fear.

Paragraph 8: interesting and developed ideas about personas, that prove that people using their real names are no less personas than people using pseudonyms, thus undermining the notion that there is something more “real” or “honest” about eponymous blogging.

Paragraph 9: bizarre notion that people who have built pseudonyms and communities around them over years might nevertheless feel free to just delete their blog when under attack. No cited examples of ever having seen this happen. Again, shows ignorance of all the ways that pseudonymous bloggers have written about that choice and the reasons for it, all of which preclude just abruptly walking away.

Paragraph 12: call for “democratic levelling” of blogs. This is either a conclusion totally unrelated to the name issue, or, in the context of the overall post, might be read as claiming that bloggers need to use their real names to reach a non-academic audience, which makes no sense.

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2 Responses to "Not Really a Blog Post"

Thank you for this thoughtful response. I appreciate your interpretation. I have actually written a comment on Tenured Radical’s blog which fleshes out some of my ideas – although blogger keeps deleting it.

I realise I didn’t explain in the piece my own context, of having shifted from pseudonymity to using my own name. Nor unfortunately did I make it clear enough that I was writing the piece responding specifically to the ideas discussed in the Journal of Women’s History round table (I thought TR was going to mention that in the introduction, as it is, it looks like my comments just come apropos nothing).

The mention of strippers came from something I quoted from one of those pieces, and my reference to it was not about pseudonymity.

I actually wrote: “I don’t think online pseudonymity is inherently wrong or cowardly – it can serve a purpose, of which I have availed myself occasionally.”

Invisible Adjunct is an example of deleting and leaving. I claim no insight to her motives (as far as I know, she wasn’t outed). Hers was actually a wonderful use of the form, where she for obvious reasons could not reveal her real identity, and became rather a voice for a whole group of marginalised academics.

Your tweet said this was from a longer piece, which makes so much sense! It seems like you had a lot of great new ideas about pseudonymity, but without them being fully expressed, the interpretation falls back to the same-old ideas (enough of which showed up to justify it).

I knew the roundtable context and had already read Ann Little’s piece at Common-place, but still a lot of the references were too oblique for something that is necessarily going to reach a different audience.

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