pseudonymity

Anonymity vs. Pseudonymity


Well, a quick post today, but one that I hope is thought provoking.

In researching 4chan, it's difficult not to come back to the recurring theme of anonymity. The concept is at the core of what the site and its community (known as Anonymous) represent, and the thousands of unidentifiable users cloaked in a shroud of namelessness are what make 4chan simultaneously one of the most creative and vibrant places on the internet and also one of the most disturbing.

Regardless of your view on the pros and cons of anonymity, I'd like to suggest that the term is somewhat misused. Type it into a dictionary and you'll usually get two definitions: something along the lines of "lacking attribution," as in an anonymous author, but also something akin to "lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction."

The former definition is how we typically conceive of online anonymity, typified by the angry commenter on newspaper websites starting flamewars while hiding behind a username. And for the most part, this is how anonymity functions on the internet.