Anonymity, Pseudonymity, Eponymy & Things Generally Onymous

I awoke this morning to find my coffee maker dead on the counter.  I was unable to scream – as at that moment I remained precaffeinated – though something inside of me certainly did scream.  Then, alas, yet another boon of unemployment, the little coffee maker I brought home from my office was right there, wherever I put it…

As my mind crept back to its normal daylight-hour (semi?)cognizance, one topic has occupied it:  the various delicate balances of identity on the internet and in fields that weigh reputation heavily.

I visit a handful of academic blogs that maintain a solid wall of pseudonymity.  And, I respect that.   I value the professional barrier between faculty and students quite highly.  Equally so, we all know dangers of providing ammunition to the more guileful among students.  And so, reading those blogs is a lot like reading fiction.  That is that when you read fiction, the characters and places are essentially real inside of your mind, for that moment, and can be thought of in context with other externally real events.  Yet, in both cases, it isn’t really important to associate those things directly with externally real events.  I have no desire to try and peer under that pseudonymity.

Then, I also visit quite a few art blogs, nearly all of which list the blogger’s real-life name, if not a website and C.V. right there under the “profile” button.  Because, as you know, in art names can be more important than the art itself.  (It’s a complex exchange worthy of a dozen other posts, but not this post.)  And, usually, if I enjoy those artists’ writing, I look to see if I’ll find something equally compelling in their art work.

This here blog, on the other hand, has been what I’ll call “weakly pseudonymous”.  I haven’t ever really cared that people could figure out who I am, or might even already know.  I’ve responded through email to a couple of commenters (comments also show up directly in my email) when I wanted to say something that I didn’t feel a need to keep secret, but that I didn’t want to post in my comments or seem to initiate a discussion about.  And, my regular email makes my real name pretty obvious.

When I was a teacher (until 3 weeks ago), I thought it wise to make sure the first few pages of an internet search related to me or my classes couldn’t find this blog.  However, I actually started this blog when I decided to require my CG2 and web design students to maintain blogs for their classes.  Having extolled the virtue of blogs for aspiring artists/designers, I thought I may as well not be hypocritical.  And, at that time I listed links to all of my students’ blogs in my blogroll.  I challenged my students to find my blog before the end of the semester (and gave no help).  I thought it might teach them some finer search skills and better acquaint them with the blogosphere.  None found it.  However, a couple of the “people” links here are the sites/blogs of former students.  Although no longer their teacher, if I end up doing a little thing to speed their success, I’ll be happy to do so.

And then what of those names and reputations and if you are Clark Kent, when do you let Lois know why you’ve got all that red underwear in your closet?

As for my real-life onymous self, as an artist…  I share my name with a cartoonist, prominent (enough) photographer, and an actor who are all older and more widely known than I am.  There is also a younger artist who has a website under a URL I used to use as did jazz musician of same unsaid name.  I’ve met none of these people, was briefly thankful for the jazz forums who sent people to my site, and secretly hope the newbie me doesn’t get more shows than I do and thus build a better C.V. for “me” than I do.  My parents did not know I’d be in the same or similar fields as these people when they gave me a name that my mother once swore my father chose as be the gender equivalent of his ex-girlfriend’s name even though no one who knows my father would ever imagine he’d do such a thing…  Hmmph.

I was, admittedly, a little nervous about using the artist’s real name in the “case study” of my last post.  I waffled for a while.  I did it.  Then, I undid it.  Thing is, I really like his art, occasionally make posts about art works, and wanted to share his work with you.  I also happen to know that he knows the whole story.  I didn’t name the university even though a retirement wave has hit the department in the interim (thus the place and many of the associated parties are no longer associated) and also know that most of those involved also know that the artist knows at least the outline of the story (which is all I know) – because there is no marginally compelling reason to write that name.  What I did though was to blend two types of posts, an uncomfortable merger of the split focus of this blog.  I knew there wasn’t much potential for damage because I know the enough of the circumstances of the years between now and then.  Still, it was bad form.  What I finally decided was to leave only an image of the artist’s work, without name or info.  It’s “weakly anonymous”.  It is not a secret.  I just hope it’s also not flinging dirt.  Can the fence make do as a chair?

As it goes, Google searches for this site, for my name, and all of the above weakly unnamed parties continue to not turn up any results containing the other.  But, knowing what I know, I also know how to figure out who I am from this blog through a little tech-savvy stalking.  I’m OK with that.

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