Friday, July 27, 2007

Identity and the Blogosphere

Over the last month there have been a slow but steady stream of posts - first from Tom Paine, then from Gracchi, then finally Ruthie - discussing identity and the blogosphere. They all focussed essentially on the uses of anonymity. The extent to which you can express yourself free from the encumbrances of an ossified persona.

Sinclair's Musings is a rather different blog to the three above. It is not anonymous and never has been. I post in my own name, the blog is named after me and the tone is very similar to my style in 'real-life'. The background to this site's logo is a painting by my favourite artist, Salvator Rosa.

My blog was never anonymous for a few reasons:

  1. The freedom of being at university and then working at the TaxPayers' Alliance has meant that the blog has been beneficial to my career if anything.
  2. My tone is naturally moderate and relatively polite.
  3. Being in a political career I was going to be publicly identified with political stances anyway.
  4. I don't need anonymity to escape a persona which might cause people to write off my opinions; I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are.
The main purpose behind my blogging has always been to keep myself engaged with a broad set of interests. I originally started it as I was embarking upon my Master's thesis and didn't want to have nothing but the effects of deficits in my head for months at a time. Since then it has kept me engaged on themes like foreign policy, philosophy and the likes that don't really fit into my work at the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Another function of my blog is to maintain a voice that is purely my own. While others blog to escape their identities I've always felt that I was confirming mine. The TaxPayers' Alliance is great and I have more freedom there to express myself than it would have been fair of me to expect. However, keeping a little corner of the Internet where I really have the freedom to explore any idea or passing interest that takes my fancy is still a joy. Few things are more satisfying than to see this blog, my thoughts, stirring the thoughts or changing the minds of others.

I think the common thread through the four posts in this thread is that the benefits we've all taken from blogging are based around it opening new channels. So often we are confined to narrow bounds of geography and social circumstance. The erosion of the importance of geographical distance alone is sufficient for blogging to open up incredible possibilities, not to mention engagement across social lines. Where else would a young Minnesota mother aspiring to be a journalist, a British expatriate in Russia exasperated at the direction British politics is moving, a PhD student with a taste for the classics and a pressure group staffer with diverse intellectual tastes find themselves engaged in discussion?

3 comments:

Ruthie said...

"Where else would a young Minnesota mother aspiring to be a journalist, a British expatriate in Russia exasperated at the direction British politics is moving, a PhD student with a taste for the classics and a pressure group staffer with diverse intellectual tastes find themselves engaged in discussion?"

Nowhere!

Yours is a great blog, always well-written and engaging, even when it tackles subjects about which I know next to nothing (most notably British politics). Blogging has served us all well.

Alexander said...

Having been active on the net, in one form or another, since the very early days, when modems were a set of rubber cups you pressed your handset into, I simply got tired of keeping track of the shifting personas, "nicks", and identities, both those of others and my own. After a while I just said, "To Hell with it! I'll just be me!"

Another reason why I started to dislike the culture of virtual personality had to do with simply standing up for what you said. If you use your own name openly when writing, there's less temptation to say things you don't really stand for. We've all seen the so called "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory" in action all too many times. An open forum and anonymity can often lead even the most scrupulous person to go off on the most bonkers rants and raves. If you know that someone, at any time in the future, is sure to dig up what you write, you tend to put more thought into what you say.

Lord Straf-Bollinger said...

Matt, I'm referring to this post this evening when I write of the blogosphere. It raises important issues.