Authentic Identity

My esteemed online colleague, Alex Hayes has once again hit the proverbial nail on the head, highlighting the very big deal that online identity is in this brave new networked world. Anonymity used to be reserved for those of us who were just starting out but it now seems to be the province of the coward, the troll or the antagonist seeking to disrupt productive communication and poisoning fruitful conversations.

Now more than ever, it is important to go by your real name, construct your avatar or Hackergotchi from a real photo and primarily use only your own words, and liberally use citations and hyperlinks when utilising the work of others. Using an alias and cryptic image will only raise suspicion about the need for a mask to hide behind.

Not all aliases and non de plumes are sinister as most genuine people are not hard to Google or tend to link to other open identifiable educators. Sometimes a fictional name puts enough legal distance between a blogger and their employer for the posts to flow freely, but a well written disclaimer can also do the same job. Within my own subscriptions, only a certain Kiwi vegetable might seem contradictory to the concept of open identity. In that case (and there are exceptions to most conventions) the alias serves as a metaphor, not a deception as the blogger's real identity was really easy to uncover (i.e. ask Leigh Blackall).

But if we need to be "surrounding this whole bullying thing with light" onto online bullies haunting comments and forums, then one of the best defences is to be really clear about who you are and make it easy to verify where you are coming from and expect nothing less from others in return. Expect that if you use a cartoon character or celebrity avatar, that others will dig virtually to work out your place in the jigsaw of online edu-interaction. Posters hiding behind fake email addresses, un-Googleable names and antagonistic, sinister  tones are to be spurned. By all means, spirited debate and contrary points of view help us all to grow. But it you don't know me personally which of these personas would you trust? :


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5 thoughts on “Authentic Identity

  1. Stephen Downes

    I am in agreemwnt with the general point, but dislike the disgram at the end.

    Imagine the same diagram, but with my picture and name replacing ‘Mystery Man’.

    People will still select ‘Graham Wegner’ if based on appearance alone, because they are conservative about appearance.

    This is not the point you are trying to make in the post, and so the diagram misrepresents the post.

  2. Graham

    Post author

    I see your point Stephen, I was just trying to illustrate a continuum of possible choices of how to represent myself ranging from no personal input to a genuine pic with real name. I know I am conservative in appearance!! Maybe the diagram needs to be better labelled because in my opinion if I replaced your picture and name with the MysteryMan, then the viewer has two equal choices of two people using the same level of openness (not withstanding appearance prejudice).

  3. Alexander Hayes

    It would, in an age of ubiquity and retinal interrogation by criminal justice departments, be the eye.

    Should identity via profanity be the key then in would step Mr. W.

    Without a doubt Graham Wegner would be the one to run with as a human 🙂

    Google supplies the “cyber-bully” hype and provides Wes Fry’s PBWiki resource less the SMH fear overtures –

    What this all points at is the profound lack of identifiable curricula material that guides and informs learners as they navigate complex and often hazardous digital domains from elementary school up. I can t ever recall anything other than net rules being enforced.

    All I can find other than that in my current workplace is

    I’m thinking of approaching the ID and BAIT team at at Western Institute , TAFE NSW with a proposal to scope course inclusion for net identity, safety, etiquette and access units to be included in all e-learning content.

    Or perhaps I can leave that one well alone, purchase some wings and go out with my family tonight as an avatar conversing synthetically and stopping occasionally to tap stuff into my keyboard.

    Ps. for some reason I tagged this bullyboy tactition in my own –

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  5. Judy O'Connell

    Hmmmmm, I agree with you Graham (I like your notions about the continuum of choices), and am not so sure that I can agree with Stephen. Identity is who we are, and image is not about conservatice or non-conservative, but in the blogosphere, a combination of image and ‘action’. I have been known by so many first as “heyjude” and only later as “judy O’Connell”, and later still with an image, and am cheefully greeted by some (in real life meetings) or virtual communications with the words “Hey Jude”. Somehow it all comes together. In the same way, I have ‘known’ Graham and Stephen for about the same amount of time, and with or without an image I have always leaned towards the honesty and accuracy of Graham’s words above Stephen’s, and that was before I saw their ‘images’….I don’t think the images operate in a ‘stand-alone’ way, except in the way Graham has indicated – keeping an image true to yourself, whatever personal style you might have, is important for who & what we are/project.


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