James Gleick in NYRB on Gabriella Coleman’s book “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous ”:
'From the beginning, anonymity online has been both a promise and a threat. Democracies are meant to cherish whistle-blowers and protect unpopular speech. We all feel the need sometimes to shed our skins. On the other hand, even the most fervent advocates of anonymity admit that when Internet communities require real names, they experience epidemics of niceness and civil discourse. When they allow users to hide behind pseudonyms, the trolls return. After all, anonymity is incompatible with the formation of reputation, and reputation is a component of trust. Ebay built its online shopping service on the principle that persistent identity would be necessary: buyers and sellers rate one another and build up reputations over time. Uber, the online taxi service, works the same way: riders and drivers cannot hide behind masks, because trust is needed to make the system work.
Coleman sees a moral virtue in anonymity as an antidote to “fame-seeking” in a culture fascinated by celebrity.'
Read the article here.
No real trust without reputation, (almost) no civil behavior without the fear of a destroyed reputation, and Schadenfreude and minor sadism lurk everywhere. This is not a moral judgment.
How can we promote civil behavior in places (countries, groups, subcultures) where uncivilized behavior improves your reputation?
And anonymity may be an antidote to fame, but on the Internet anonymity is first and foremost an attempt to let off steam, without risking your reputation. To say it polite.
I’m curious what Coleman has to add to Parmy Olson’s excellent book about Anonymous.