Episode 60: An Unedited Guest Spot

One of the things that I have always found interesting about webcomics is that cartoonists will often do guest strips for each other. The premise is pretty simple, collaborate with a like minded artist and share each others readerships and have one cover for you an installment, especially when you are out on vacation/ attending a con. You can even get a whole series of guest strips, rarely do you get a continuation of the actual main story but you might a few interesting one shot jokes, kinda like fanfiction (which reminds me, fan fiction entry coming soon) . In order to further increment my own fame on the blog circuit and add some extra depth to on both sides of content, I have volunteered myself to do a guest spot for the lovely and talented ladies of Digital Humanities Scholar Space. Feel free to check out their blog over at http://dhscholarspace.wordpress.com/  but before they do some actual editing and polishing, here’s the grimy  post I have for them in all of its misspelled glory a few days early. Maybe I should call it the Director’s Cut/ Unrated Edition of the post to see if it garners some extar attention. Here goes:

Digital Fingerprints: Nonexistant, What You Create, or the Real You?

The Internet is a confusing place. Imagine a land where old ladies tend to their virtual farms, fairly stationary can save princesses from giant monsters, solitary people keep posting cat pictures, shadowy criminals can move information like a commodity, and sexy singles in your local area want to meet you. And this is just the moslty PG 13 stuff. Perhaps the scariest part of the Internet is not that so much diversity exists but rather that all of these persona can be the same person. Our regular notions and concepts of identity are heavily blurred when it comes to cyberspace and one of the tasks of the digital humanities is to clarify these ideas and figure out what kind of ripples can extend to us IRL. Let’s shake some of these cyber branches together and see what falls shall we.

I Am No One

Back in ye olden times of the Internet where AOL hours were almost a form of currency, the only way to truly know who was anyone online involved FBI level background searches and the dubious act of “backtracing”. Now a days there is a real debate over just how anonymous one can be online, especially with IP numbers being so specific. You don’t need Sherlock Holmes or a CSI crew to figure out if someone on the Internet is not telling the truth. But now wanting people to know who you are isn’t inherently a crime and being asked to have an account for just about every big website rather than visiting and posting under anon status can be interestingly enough be construed as a violation of one’s privacy.

The idea of anonimity on a personal level sits well with most people but once you apply it to a whole group you start raising some eyebrows of concern. The group “Anonymous” is scary and considered by some to be the closest thing to evil Matrix people as you are going to get because they can be anyone. Users of the imageboard “4chan” which highlights the anonymity of its users for just about everything has even been called by Fox News a potential terrorist group (best just to leave them be). Even the concept of wikis, and the big daddy of them all Wikipedia, worries people because it no longer becomes an issue of facts but rather about posting information with the guise of facts (Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” for example). The fear lies not so much in the possibility of action, since you can do anything with a mask that you can do without it, but rather with the overall lack of responsibility and accountability. When something bad happens, you want the guilty party to pay for it, go to jail, say their sorry, get a hand chopped off in some countries, or something to ensure some form of justice. Without having someone to point the finger at, regular people are confused and perpetrators lose any fear of being caught, especially when you can flaunt your digital diplomatic immunity. This can best be summed by the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory first developed by the creators of Penny Arcade Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulic here  http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19 Academics have a fancier word for it “Online Disinhibition Effect” (google it) and some even quote that comic for their academic journals and such. The idea that any person with anonymity and an audience can easily become, for a lack of a better term, a complete fuckwad is scary.

[Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this post coming soon]

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