ddc: anonymity

monday’s designing digital communities class was about the role of anonymity in online communities: good, bad, ugly, alternatives. i found it helpful to study the bad behaviors as “types”, with their associated motivations and effects:

dissociative anonymity

  • having an identity separate from how people know you offline or in the rest of your life


  • no one is actually watching you
  • moving away from the social panopticon
  • this is becoming less common as our online worlds become increasingly traceable


  • communication is free from the temporal constraints of other offline interactions
  • you build emotional distance from your shitty actions by physically leaving the computer; “an emotional hit and run”

solipsistic introjection

  • we internalize communications with others online, so we just think we’re “talking to ourselves”
  • dehumanizes people on the other side of the computer

dissociative imagination

  • the world online feels entirely separate, like a video game, so consequences don’t spill over into your “real” offline life

minimizing authority

we discussed having real names or pseudonyms as alternatives to complete anonymity, and we reviewed reputation management and identity verification processes of a few online communities. for example, stackoverflow.com and reddit.com both use badges and/or upvotes as reputation signals. how do we build scalable reputation tracking systems into communities we design?

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