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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Why "transparency"?

Let's try something a little different, even though it may overload blogger. I'm going to pose a question for discussion, and I would like each of you to add a comment. But as you comment, please take into account not only the original question but each of the previous comments, as well.

Today's readings addressed the issue of anonymity, with one suggesting that keeping your blog anonymous is a good way to avoid getting in trouble, and another arguing that anonymity violates blogging standards of transparency. He recommends simply using common sense to avoid posting anything that might get you into trouble.

Would you or are you blogging anonymously? Why? Why not? Here's one person's defense. What's yours? (For doing it or not.)


At Thu Feb 02, 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Megan said...

I don't blog anonymously and I'm not sure why I don't. I guess because my blog started as a way for me to keep in touch with my family, I wanted them to be able to google my name and come up with the right website.

Although, now that I think about it, I don't think that I would ever consider blogging anonymously. It seems to me that we shouldn't be afraid of saying what we have to say and anything, even negative things can be said tactfully. As a caveat to that statement, I must admit that I do self-censor. I don't do that because I don't want someone to find out what I have to say about something or someone, I do that because I don't think a blog is the appropriate place to vent those issues. I prefer to bring them up in the privacy of a conversation as opposed to airing my dirty laundry, so to speak.

If you blog completely unanonymously, as I do, requires a certain amount of courage because you are essentially exposing yourself to everyone (possible enemies included). I have a site monitor installed, so I generally know who visits my site and there are people that I don't speak to anymore, who do read my blog regularly. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm certainly not going to censor it or hide. Their judgments are theirs and it's my job to not portray myself negatively by stooping to gossip.

I guess what I'm saying is that, it's your choice to blog anonymously or not, but you shouldn't censor because you're afraid of getting caught or because you're afraid of legal ramifications. You should censor because it reflects poorly on you to reduce your blog's tone to petty arguments.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:24:00 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

I believe that people on both sides of the date make valid points. Like most things there isn't a right or a wrong and what is best for one, may not be best for another. I agree with Megan's point that you should be careful of what you say; you should be able to stand behind your arguments and your posts. I don't think that anonymity should be used to allow one to post insulting things about another or to knowingly post wrong information. However, I prefer to blog anonymously not because I don't stand behind my opinions or because I post things that are insulting or untrue, but rather because I am untrusting of the internet. We live in a world were people are doing shocking things to others on a daily basis. Honestly, I am afraid of giving too much information about myself because I know there are people out there who may use it to hurt me. It is like when your parents say "it's not you we don't trust, it's everyone else." I don't want to live in fear, per se, but I want to be smart. I worked a summer ago with Frank Abagnale (who they made the movie "Catch Me If You Can" about). He now does work for banks and corporations to prevent fraud. It is astonishing how easy it is to find out information about people. I am cautious and I am wary about giving people more information (particularly "bad" people) about me than they can already get.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:24:00 PM, Blogger EL said...

My blog is also not anonymous. The main reason for it is simply at the time I created my blog I wasn't thinking about or worrying about the implications of this issue. Now that we have discussed it in class I have started to consider it more.
I think I will continue using my name with my posts, mostly because I don't think that the topic of my blog is anything that would cause controversy or any other ethical or legal rammifications. I think those with a more personal, journal style blog should be more concerned.
Another issue that I am thinking about is that of commenting anonymously. A friend of mine that operates a personal blog has recently had to disable the anonymous commenting feature because of some problems he was having. Basically someone personally attacked him and one of his entries through commenting. What do other people think of anonymous commenting? I think it could be a useful feature if you're trying to give someone (constructive) criticism without having to necessarily reveal your identity, but I think nine times out of ten those who comment anonymously are doing so because they posting something negative or obscene. I guess in my view, if you want to take the time to give your opinion you shouldn't hide behind internet anonymity.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:24:00 PM, Blogger hannel said...

I suppose I blog semi-anonymously. My user name, hannel, is a compination of my first initial, middle name and last initial, but I suppose anyone that doesn't know me personally wouldn't catch that.

I don't really have a desire for people to know my real name or more about me, though. I'm not ashamed of anything I post, I just don't think my true identity is necessary to understand what I write. Yes, on political, news or occupation blogs more detail would be essential, but I don't think my work falls in any of those sectors. If nothing else, not knowing who I am may help readers find greater meaning within each post. It's just like when you read a fantasy story - you get to come up with your own picture of each character and setting so that they relate closest to you. Anonymity can help one bypass social barriers and take more meaning away from each post

At Thu Feb 02, 02:34:00 PM, Blogger J L said...

I think that megan has said some terrific points about being bold and courageous in the blogging world. And I think it is good that she can openly express who she is to people who have never seen her before. But not all of us are so bold.

I like to keep my identity private for some unknown reason. Maybe I'm afraid that people will hate my work, or that people may really love my work. I've always been a kind of middle of the road kind of person so I don't really like severe praise or discontentment. But another reason is that I would like to think that the people who make defamatory remarks have some sort of critical thoughts behind their words, but I realize that isn't always the case. And I don't want to have to get hot under the collar about what some person has to say about me. I would like to directly look into the faces of the people out there who don't like me, and then have a discussion about what kind of person I am. Because there is no way that a person can reveal everything about themselves in an entire life-time of blogging. People change who they are and what they're about. So making a statement about one aspect of a person's life is just unproductive.

I would like to think that our progressive society could refrain from personal attacks, but I know this isn't possible. I think just not getting into a heated argument and having something personal said about beliefs and values is a great reason to blog without a name.

But, I also think that if you are willing to produce the most intimate details of your life for hundreds of thousands of people to read then maybe you should be willing to take some personal attacks about what you're doing. I just don't think that is a situation I would like to get involved in.

All these attacks against people who produce questionable content on their blogs seems to me like the political mudslinging that now dominates every election. The purpose is taking what could be a great political system and using it as a stage to have a sixth grade shouting match. Can't we grow up at some point in our lives?

At Thu Feb 02, 02:34:00 PM, Blogger alb said...

Let me preface this by saying I think anybody should be allowed to blog anonymously if they want to. I guess it's a minor bias against blogs, but I don't see them as credible enough to warrant transparency. In journalism it's necessary. In journals it's impossible. My perception is that blogs are a hybrid of the two, no matter the subject, and transparency is nice but not required.

My blog, like hannel's is semi-anonymous. It uses my initials, and I think that one post I cross-posted to has my name. It wouldn't take much of a detective to deduce who I am. A couple posts refer to what I do at this point in time, and I don't think I would want people to be able to google my name and find it. However, I also don't have a problem with people in this class knowing who I am.

In terms of Megan's comment, I agree that self-censorship is a needed and useful tool. But if somebody wants to use a blog as a truly open forum for personal rants, it's fine with me if they do so anonymously. It might not be the smartest thing, but have at it. I think it's unfair for bitemarks, even as a recommendation on the bloggers behalf, to tell people they should not blog anonymously.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:39:00 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I think your blog is your own personal property, and can be done however you choose. A person should certainly be able to blog anonymously if they want to. With all the horror stories you hear about people getting in trouble or fired from their jobs because of something they said on their blog, I wonder why everyone doesn't blog anonymously. I try to remain anonymous on my blog for my own reasons (psycho ex-girlfriend), and anyone who doesn't like it can go read something else.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:41:00 PM, Blogger Tanner Flowers said...

hannel makes an interesting point of discussing the issue of anonymity on the level of bypassing social barriers. Would the "stereotypical red-stater" read the blog of a homosexual? Would the "stereotypical blue-stater" read the blog of a GOP contributor? Even if these blogs have something important or credible to say, complete disclosure may limit the audience.

The Romantic poet, John Clare, originally wrote his poetry ananymously. He was afraid that his social class would deny him entry into the literary class.

That being said, I choose to annouce my presence. I even sign posts with my last name, which may not be exceptionally wise. None the less, if I make a comment I will stand by it and welcome civilized debate.

In my opinion, the blogger should make themselves known and take on the responsibility of publishing something that others will see.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:55:00 PM, Blogger amy said...

I guess I do not blog anonymously, since my site name is afortner.
I guess I can see both sides of the debate pretty clearly. I can see very valid reasons for blogging anonymously, and now that I think about it, I am not sure why I attached my name to mine, lol.
I think any person has the right to blog anonymously because I think one of the benefits of the internet is for self expression for those who are uncomfortable with doing so otherwise.
However, I think you need to have tact in doing so. I mean, it should not be used as a gossip tool, or anything of that nature.
I guess like all things, it has the potential for good and bad.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:56:00 PM, Blogger alb said...

Regarding Tanner's post, I don't think that expanding the audience should be a consideration. It doesn't seem that the goal or point of a blog is to have as many people as possible read it. With our instructor's blog, it seems apparent that she belongs to a community of bloggers that work in a related field. I don't think that an engineer would necessarily get much out of the blogs of engligh professors, so why read it? A red-stater probably doesn't want to read a homosexual's blog no matter the level of disclosure. Oh well, people probably weren't going to broaden their horizons from a blog anyways. And as far as the disclosure= responsibility, I just think there is more to it than that. I know I am responsible for everything I write, and I can take that no problem. I specifically don't sign so that my blog isn't easy to find. I don't think audience size equates to transparency.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:57:00 PM, Blogger KR said...

My blog is also semi-anonymous. K and R are my first two initials, and one of my family nicknames, so anyone I'm good friends with may be able to figure it out. My reasons for keeping my identity on the down-low range from not wanting to be ostracized for a post someone misunderstood, to having the freedom to talk about my life without people knowing it's MY life.

Like others in this class, I, too, commend bloggers who are open about who they are and don't mind the heat that comes with that admission. And really, the idea of being held fully accountable is really appealing to me, because I do feel strongly on a number of issues and I don't want to hide.

But the negative side-effects of, say, one of the grad schools to which I've applied finding my blog, and judging me on my posts, is just too risky right now. The public is fickle, and from one post to the next, friends can be made or lost. I would just rather keep it simple, and keep it anonymous for now.

In the case of this class, it makes it uber-tricky, though, because I can't always tell who's commenting on my posts or whose thoughts I'm reading.

Maybe it's more interesting, not knowing what name to put to which face, but it can be a little bit disappointing. I can't go up to a person and say, "hey, that post was really cool." But I guess that's what the blog comments are for.

At Thu Feb 02, 02:59:00 PM, Blogger xhalabar said...

I blog anonymously at present. This was not, however, something I philosophized over for a long time before doing it. Any time I join some internet ring or whatever I use a pseudonym, because I think having a different name is a hell of a lot more fun than using the one God gave you. On an amusing note, I'm looking beneath this type window and seeing a sign that says "This blog does not allow anonymous comments." That's funny to me.

So there it is. I prefer to post anonymously. Maybe it's because I'm a huge liar or something deep down. Maybe I'm not entirely comfortable with the thought that anything I write could theoretically be pawed over by the entire internet-wielding world (though of course in all likelihood it won't be). Maybe I am comfortable with that. I don't know. I don't really think about it. I think it would be boring to use my own name in something like a blog. No offense to anyone who does, though. Everybody has there own style. That's what makes things awesome. Like the way I accidentally misspelled "their" two sentences ago. I'm not going to change it, so their.

To take a more philosophical approach to this question, people who are uncomfortable expressing themselves in public forums or environments might use a blog to express their creativity or thoughts where otherwise they might feel inhibited from doing so. I say more power to them. If anyone cares, my real name is Colin and I'm the one who wears the black shirts and asks all the dumb questions. Lay off me, I'm not really a computer guy.

At Thu Feb 02, 03:13:00 PM, Blogger Donna said...

alb suggests that no one reads blogs to expand his/her horizons. I must disagree. While it's true that people might tend to seek out like-minded people, even within that community, there are differences. to give a very mild example: I read blogs by people whose opinions I don't always agree with, expressly so that I will stretch my thinking and consider new ideas.

Now, to give a somewhat wild example: I read a pseudononymous blog by a woman who is a professor somewhere in some field (she keeps these details vague for obvious reasons). She often blogs about her husband and young son. How nice. Then, not too long ago, I realized that, along with her husband, she has a boyfriend. It's an open marriage. I was rather shocked. Scandalized, even. And while I might not have gone looking for a person blogging about an open marriage, I'm now confronted with a person whose blog I've enjoyed who is in an open marriage. So I'm forced to confront an issue, concept, lifestyle that I might not otherwise have spent a lot of time thinking about.

So, there you have it. Horizons expanded.


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