Should Students Use Pseudonyms Online?

Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jul 26, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

With the mass purge of fake (or allegedly fake) user identities on Google+ over the weekend the question of anonymity and identity has come to the fore once again. I pretty much summarized my own view here, with an addendum here, and if you really want, a remark yesterday in here. Anil Dash came out with a profanity-filled post blaming site owners for the abuses of their comment sections. Flickr founder Caterina Fake, meanwhile, came out with a defense of anonymity. "AKA or “Also Known As” is a common use case. It’s like a stage name or a nom de plume. Say your Nom de Web is Kryptyk Physh. It’s not your 'real name', but you’ve staked your claim to it." Some writers, like the Guardian's Tim Adams, suggest that everybody on the net should use their real names. files/images/gplus.jpg, size: 3901 bytes, type:  image/jpeg In this article, Audrey Watters comes out in favour of anonymity in education and notes "At the time, I was a graduate student, and it was safer for me to not reveal my identity. In an infamous op-ed that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 'Ivan Tribble' made it clear that 'bloggers need not apply' for academic jobs." So why is Google so interested in identity? Dave Winer explains, "Simply put, a real name is worth more than a fake one... It means it's possible to cross-relate your account with your buying behavior with their partners, who might be banks, retailers, supermarkets, hospitals, airlines. To connect with your use of cell phones that might be running their mobile operating system. To provide identity in a commerce-ready way." Which is why Skud is not acceptable to Google. Which - in my mind - is wrong.
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