Going Meta

A while ago, I read this article, called “What is  a Blog Post?” which includes a taxonomy of types and their associated criticisms.

Since then, I’ve heard or been part of at least five conversations about the Lounge which included the following statements by various people about a number of topics. One person (who shall remain nameless because I have not asked his permission to name him) asked if there’d ever been discussion about splitting the Lounge up into a kind of business version and an alternate site for experimentation and more personal kinds of posts. A few people in different conversations have said that they don’t read it as often anymore for various reasons (though none, have mentioned the previously proposed “fear of authorities”). The most common complaint in the last few months, made with vigor in a few cases, is the reader dislike/disdain for anonymous/pseudonymous posts and comments.

Accordingly, and since I think the “policy” of the Lounge should reflect the ethos of people in it, I’d like to open up the question of anonymity and pseudonymity.

For the record, personally, I am and have been 100% in favor of people signing their comments and their posts. I set the site up to allow for anonymous comments, though, because I didn’t feel that my own preference was reason to preclude others from theirs (and because I expected that having the option to comment anonymously would make people more likely to comment). The same reasoning applied to the pseudonyms, and frankly, I thought that everyone would know everyone before long anyway.

I would say that, even after the discussions I’ve had this week, that’s how I would (still) vote. I am open to being persuaded and/or outvoted on the matter, though.

I would prefer discussion, but I’ve added a poll, too.

I await your thoughts (and promise not to mock anyone who comments anonymously).

UPDATE: I’d been saving these for something, but I figure no time like the present, since they address the topic:

A) This discussion on the same topic on the APPS blog was interesting; and

B) This article by a Chronicle writer on why he chose a pseudonym and why he gave it up is also interesting.

18 thoughts on “Going Meta

  1. I am in favor of the right of anonymity and psuedonymity, but I have problems with the principle and motivation, and I see this as intrinsically tied to tenure.

    The original purpose of tenure, to my understanding, was to protect an academic’s voice. Social progress and innovation depends on intelligent people speaking in an honest, intelligent, and informed manner. This is ESPECIALLY true when the opinion is contentious and unpopular.

    Tenure has been under attack across the country, particularly at the K-12 level, but it has occurred in higher education as well. If tenure is merely about job security, we faculty will lose the battle. Despite our hard work and our goals of social justice, we do not merit that level of job-security any more than any number of other occupations.

    We merit tenure for our unique position as dealers of ideas and cultivators of the mind, and because speaking the truth is an inherent part of our job. It is a form of job security for the unique occupational hazards we face: a bad reputation for saying unpopular things.

    But when we choose to hide our real names, we betray the purpose of tenure. And if we do that, we delegitimize our right to tenure.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have a great respect for The Realist, both in the Realist character and the person behind the Realist. On Realist’s anonymity, however, I disagree with the principle. Expressing one’s views honestly and bravely is what it means to be a faculty member.

    Now as to the question of my intelligence for saying this while still a year away from tenure? That’s a different question 🙂

    • Nothin’ but respect for you too Kamran. Tenure or not, that’s not the reason for posting anonymously. It has everything to do with having readers focus on the issue and not the source of it.
      Is that a logical/sound reason?

      • “It has everything to do with having readers focus on the issue and not the source of it.”

        If it were only this simple though. The issues are created and dealt with by people, so I’m not sure that we get increased clarity and understanding by thinking that issues can be separated from those who generate them and actually live them. I guess this works if we’re scratching our chins and hashing out ideas in a more abstract sense (the human condition or whatnot), but most of the issues I’ve seen on the Lounge have to do with people, places, and things that are specifically localized to the HWC community. Perhaps knowing the unique perspective from which someone is addressing an issue would actually increase clarity and maybe even be a step toward effecting change.

        • I hear you loud and clear Matt U.

          “If it were only this simple though.”
          There is nothing simple about my statement. Complicated, yes. Worth pondering, absolutely.
          Isn’t it possible to enjoy a work of literature without knowing the author? Does knowing the author make it a better piece? If the reader does not like the author, does it devalue the words? If so, does that concern you, ’cause it does concern me.

          “Perhaps knowing the unique perspective from which someone is addressing an issue would actually increase clarity and maybe even be a step toward effecting change.”
          All of the authors have their unique perspectives. Everyone who leaves a comment has a unique perspective. I believe all the contributions (anonymous and otherwise) have produced change. The Lounge is serving a purpose. Hurray for that!

          “I’m not sure that we get increased clarity and understanding by thinking that issues can be separated from those who generate them and actually live them.”
          First, why can’t an issue be raised anonymously? We do this when we assess our students and ask them questions like ‘What reading assignment did you like the most?’
          Second, and to build on the assessment analogy, why is it important to know if it is Johny or Jane that does/doesn’t like Hamlet? The point is the teacher has clarity and the teacher has separated it from the individual – in order to protect the rights of the individual, correct?

          Thanks for your comment!

          • It is interesting to note, though, that your examples were literary. I’m guessing that they were because you knew you were in conversation with someone who teaches lit, right?

            (I’m not taking a side here, just making an observation to Matt’s point about how knowledge can clarify. Certainly, as you’ve said, it can distort as well–this is a point raised in the discussion I added to the update, especially in discriminatory environments. I’ll duck the literary question and just say that I think knowing who the person is that you’re talking to can be illuminating and clarifying. It’s also been a delight, though, as an editor, over the past year to see people who would not agree on ANYTHING in a room together (because of past history or whatever) agree with each other because the identity of one or the other was partially hidden.*)

            *By that I mean sometimes people post comments “Anonymously” but for some reason include their email address which shows up next to the “anonymous” comment on the dashboard.

            I’ll stop talking now.

          • Leave it to a philosophical mind to make such an insightful observation. Fantastic.

            On the one hand, yes, Matt U is an Englsh instructor and yes, my example was literary. Thus Matt’s point is clarified by my own comment. Oh, the irony. (For the record, I had no idea Matt taught a literature course. I thought he taught the straight English 100-102 classes. Can you confirm Matt? Nah, don’t worry about it. I’d just be reaffirming PhiloDave’s observation.)

            On the other hand, my example could have been coincidental (I had considered using a movie as an example, but the literary example linked one person with one title, thus providing a focused example). My observation is that it allows me to reinforce Matt’s point regarding “things that are specifically localized to the HWC community.” I used a literary example because we are a community of instructors and all instructors can relate to Literature, right?

            Truly enjoying this discussion! By continuing the threads it proves that we can converse, anonymously and otherwise.

          • He also teaches Lit 155: Literature in Film…so if you’d used a movie and a work of lit, I’d have had you twice!

          • How ’bout that, huh? Little did I know.
            Any more coincidences?

  2. Although anonymity purports to negate the consequences of controversial speak and the like, the reality in this instance is that Realist has displaced onto the identifiable affiliates of this blog whatever reception she or he fails to accept. If responsibility is the consequence of freedom, then my own is more than enough to bear, thank you very much. That said, I feel that Realist has every right to continue her or his unique commentary stream on a separate blog that, in itself and by design, would sustain the brunt of what she or he has to say. That’s just my opinion.

  3. Thank you Kamran and Domenico for your posts! You are my kinda peeps. Let the debate go forth!

      • Let the voters have their say.
        Anonymity is a double-edged sword.
        You are marginalized if you disagree with common culture. You are hailed if you agree with common culture. I’m not lookin’ for a slap in the face nor a pat on the back. I’m in it for neither.
        Freedom of Speech is the name of this character’s game.
        Blogging is all about being heard, not seen.
        So what if you don’t know the identity of the person? Isn’t it more important to understand the issue? Why do words need faces? Isn’t that the seed of racism and discrimination?

        Be honest, is it curiosity, frustration, fear, or excitement that leads people to want to know who is behind the curtain in the land of Oz?
        Tis best to question ones own identity first before seeking to know the identity of others. I mean that in the most respectful way.

        Great post! Let others have their say.
        Rock on peeps! You too, wannabe Realists!

  4. Practical question: Should our troops wear camouflage in battle?
    Maybe anonymous or pseudonymous posts reflect self-preservation on the employment battlefield.

    • I agree. Only full-timers with tenure have the liberty of posting under their own names. Part timers, and new hires without tenure are at the mercy of a capricious (and sometimes malevolent) system.

      • Sometimes tenured folks go through similar experiences. I hear ya Chris.

        Regardless of that reality, this cat will continue to only reveal a smile in wonderland.

    • I like your analogy! I never thought if it like that.
      Thanks for your reply, Anonymous.

  5. With that, I am feeling confident once again about my pseudonym for this blog. It was a clever way to express myself in a forum where many might say I have no reason or right to be.


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