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January 24, 2007


Helen Kelley

I agree with you in part; how could someone who has an opinion on an issue only want to be heard in one medium, when another medium may spread their ideas to an even larger audience?

But on the other hand; what most people are willing to discuss with their peers, they might not be so keen to talk about with their mothers. My point is that those bloggers, who refused to be named, might have had other interest (like their reputation) that outweighed their opinion on a particular topic or maybe they were just fooling around and their feelings didn’t really reflect what they posted.

If it was me, I would not have used quotes that I could not attribute to a person. Attributing to a persona, like you did, may have been accurate, but I wonder what value a persona’s opinion has.

I agree that online discussion forums are like public forums, except in one important respect, anonymity. Should anonymous bloggers be forced to identify themselves- no, in my opinion. The rules are different, just as the styles are different, for each medium. This is a difficulty we all face in switching between two seemingly similar, yet different mediums.

Sophia Tu

I agree with Helen that attributing quotes to online personas instead of to people is not the best practice, but there might be cases where it is acceptable. Some people who use personas might want to protect themselves against repercussions at their job or in their community - whistleblowers, for example. If the persona is well-established, their views can be debated and criticized, in a way that impacts the credibility of the persona. The person has a stake in the image of their persona because they have invested a lot of time and energy in building its reputation. In this case, I think it may be permissible to attribute a quote to a persona instead of a person.

On the other hand, it is possible to create many online personas for the purposes of creating discord and provoking other users (known as sock mobs). Clearly these personas do not have much credibility, nor do their creators have much stake in their reputations.

I am reminded of the personas of Locke and Demosthenes created by Ender's siblings in the book Ender's Game. Valentine and Peter never allowed their real names to be associated with their personas, because their thoughtful political contributions would not have been taken seriously if the public knew that they were around 12 years old. However, they spent a lot of time crafting their personas and building their reputations through their writing, so other political commentators debated with them, quoted them, and generally took them seriously. If a blogger wishes to remain anonymous but has created a well-developed and established persona, I don't see why they shouldn't be quoted with the same respect and credibility accorded to a real person.

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