Monday, June 14, 2010

an observation about fannish pseudonymity

I see three positions on pseudonymity on the internet::
• Don't out anyone who isn't doing anything illegal.

• Out people who really anger you.

• People who don't make a serious effort to be pseudonymous shouldn't complain if they're outed.
What follows is a lightly edited version of a comment on a LiveJournal post where I was having too much fun exploring the nature of pseudonymity by adopting the name several of my critics have called me, a name which I first heard in second or third grade and associate with the racists who harassed me when I spoke up in fourth and fifth grade for ending segregation, "shitterly":

Coffeeandink said of her pseudonymity once:
Please also explain how I was hiding my identity from you or the Nielsen Haydens in a LiveJournal pnh friended a few years ago*, with a user profile that lists my very identifiable first name, in a post that is signed with my very identifiable first name.
If she was pseudonymous under those very "out" circumstances--and I have come to believe she was and I was wrong to out her--then "shitterly" is pseudonymous even if I identify myself as Will Shetterly in a post. The "shitterly" who says he is me could be anyone.

If I use my public LJ identity of willshetterly to confirm in the comments that I'm shitterly, I'm still not out. The willshetterly leaving the message could be someone who hacked my account, so you would want to wait a day before assuming Will Shetterly was truly confirming that he was the pseudonymous shitterly.

But even that is not enough to conclude that shitterly is no longer pseudonymous. Coffeeandink put her full name in public posts on her LJ, but she claimed she was not out because she did not use her last name in her user profile. The "shitterly" LJ had neither first nor last name in the user profile.

So, by the standards of many people in our community, including Kynn and Coffeeandink, shitterly would still be pseudonymous, no matter how many times I claimed I had adopted the name, and no one should out him or her.