Thursday, April 22, 2004

who was that masked blogger?
Gauche links with approval to a piece in the Register calling for bloggers to write under their own names instead of anonymously, pseudonymously or with first names only. He quotes the article as follows:

"Public correspondences, such as that which developed around the Royal Society in London in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century, tended to be presented as between public equals, not private friends."

The problem with this argument is that if everyone puts their full names, they’ll soon add the letters after those names and the whole thing will turn into a credentialing exercise, adding to the emerging hierarchies between blogs on issues like number of links, etc. There is a certain appeal to the idea that blogs are a conspiracy of equals against big meeja, but that notion would be more likely to flourish if everyone was anonymous.

But who says blogs should be about democracy or equality anyway? Most seem to fall into either internal or external categories. You have the wonder-of-me type blogs, which generally seem to be written by teenagers or people in the first years of their careers. There’s also a large group of public affairs blogs, generally by men approaching or within middle age who don’t feel that their views have been given sufficient recognition by the world, and are glad for the chance to make an impact with whoever is out there who might be reading.

So why write pseudonymously, if this is the case? Many don’t, giving their full names proudly as though anticipating recognition at last. If others don’t it’s because, in a sense, blogging is a last fling at youth. It uses new technology and revitalizes people whose views are all too well known to the people they know with the opportunity to collar strangers and demonstrate to them their wisdom and virtue. It adds some vitality to their attenuated belief that they can make a difference.

Pseudonyms fit in with that too. When I was around 14, I remember riding on the Metropolitan Line in London and seeing a long extract from William Blake painted all over the Westway (the one about the Horses of Experience being better than the tigers of…something or other). It was tremendously impressive. That’s what I like about blogging. It’s basically graffiti, scribbled in a hurry and viewed in passing, but maybe remembered, especially if attached to an intriguing tag.

Shorter version: Blogging is vanity publishing, and pseudonyms tickle people’s vanity, including mine. The problem with this is that it also appeals to people’s vanity to start organizing conferences, laying down rules and generally covering the whole thing with a thick, bureaucratic crust.