I seem to spend a fair bit of time on this little blog-o-mine promising someone (myself?) that I will write/post about certain things in the future.  I’ve since instantiated that more forcefully for myself by starting a list, in Google Tasks, of things I need to write about (I LOVE G-Tasks, by the way.  I’ve been waiting for a to-do app for gmail, so that I could have it always there, with my email, reminding me that there are better things I could be doing with my time… ok, that sounds oppressive, but I really am happy with the functionality of this app!).  I figured I would list some of those topics here, and get started on one.  I can’t take too much time, though, since I need to get back to writing the big D.  The pressure to make a statement like that will probably be my first topic.

Things I will be writing about at some point: weight loss, habits generally (including but not limited to work, food, and gym… the safe and acceptable habits!), reunions, memory (documenting one’s life), Time (in both dissertation and non-dissertation related ways), grad-student stereotypes (more in terms of hopes and fears than in terms of personality types), and, today, anonymity and the pressure of professionalism in academic blogs.

I’ve read a lot of advice about blogging as an academic.  The vast majority is pretty negative.  It ranges from “don’t blog,” to “blog about safe topics” (work [scholarly or pedagogical, though usually the former], exercise, children, that quirky hobby that couldn’t possibly take up enough time to distract you from your work, etc.) to “use your blog as a professional portfolio” to “just don’t get caught.”

The last is interesting to me, especially: there are a number of examples of academics blogging under pseudonyms, in order to preserve their anonymity and protect their careers.  The most famous example, of course, is Bitch PhD, but I have friends who do this as well.  Bitch PhD actually has a couple of posts about anonymity and pseudonymity, including this one, which was a paper at MLA about academic blogging.  BTW, I didn’t know until recently (well, I guess everything is “recently” with me and blogging, since I haven’t even been at this for a year) that Bitch was in 18th-Century; her discussion of periodicals and eidolons is pretty directly related to stuff I’m writing about, which is awesome.  But anyway, I’ve wondered for a little while whether or not I should be posting under a pseudonym, for a number of reasons (I feel compelled to acknowledge, at this point, that pseudonymity is not necessarily the same as anonymity, and that they have distinct and separable goals and effects, although there is certainly some overlap): the possibility of protecting my career, the added interest-value that a pseudonym provides (mjw321 is, frankly, kind of boring, right?), and quasi-freedom to write about events in my life without those I am writing about necessarily knowing that I am writing about them.

I wonder, though, about the quasi-anonymity offered by obscurity.  I assume that there are fairly few people who even know this blog exists, much less read it regularly, and it is connected to a number of identifying online “landmarks” that would lead someone who knows me to it easily (facebook, psu website, etc.).  The Inter-Webs are a vast and lonely place, in many ways, and although the anonymity of obscurity is not at all dependable, it seems to do the trick for a lot of people.  If I were to start another blog, and tell no one in my life about it, people would know about it only through the sites I linked to (trackbacks, etc.), the content I posted, the hints I gave of a life offline.  Given the ever-increasing number of blogs out there, and if the author practiced a certain amount of caution, it seems unlikely that such a blog could be traced back to a real person.

But where’s the fun in that?

I’ve spent too much time on this entry already, and yet left too many of the above thoughts unfinished.  I’ll close with this thought:

Putting aside the effect of anonymity on credibility, offline rep/career, and content topics, is there anything about a pseudonym/anonymity that might affectively alter the experience of blogging?