Saturday, December 29, 2007

CB Handles

What's In A Name? - Steven Heller

Heller makes a compelling argument for the use of real names in blogging and blog-commenting. It's often the case that one who uses a pseudonym feels more free to make comments they would otherwise temper if their identity were known. The blogosphere has allowed the masses to express their opinions and interests in rather highly public forms and the comment sections of blog post allow the same freedom for a blog's readers. Yet, as Heller point out, how trustworthy is a blogger or commentator when they hide behind a handle versus their own name. For whistleblowers or those who might otherwise put them and their families at risk by exposing their name, a pseudonym is understandable. But the vast majority of bloggers and blog-readers do not run such a risk. The only risk they run is having less than politel comments associated with their names and reputations.
This issue of pseudonym versus real name has gone beyond the message boards where flame wars, trolls and other kinds of rabblerousing exists. Many bloggers desire the same reputability as other journalists and thus want to make their blogs as accurate and open to criticism as possible. Even so, criticism that comes without attribution is less valuable than criticism that someone is willing to put their name behind. For a lot of critics, particularly of the troll variety, the pseudonym is a way of saying things without consideration or thought, without care for the veracity of their comments and without concern for lively and productive debate. They often do not play the role of devil's advocate or add anything of real value to the conversation. And when called upon it, many bloggers and commentors launch the accusation of 'fascist' to those who dare question their versimilitude. The existence of "Godwin's Law" since the mid-1990s is proof of the continuing existence of trolls and other commentors who would rather derail a conversation and focus on themselves than engage in a real debate.
The idea of requiring commentors and bloggers to use their real names is not meant to stifle conversation but to keep it civil. Let the pundits on tv embarass themselves with stupid and inane commentary. We the masses deserve better and one way to receive better is to call for an end of pseudonym usage in the blogosphere.

1 comment:

Lindsy said...

There is an advantage to pseudonyms or anonymous posting: it can provide a space for people who would not normally post to do so. In the nineteenth century, most magazines allowed anonymous publication, which actually benefited women writers. Anonymity gave women the opportunity to publish, although many, such as Margaret Oliphant, adopted a masculine voice for their non-fiction articles.