Thursday, July 29, 2004

NYT on Blog Hoaxes: Identity Online Takes Another Stroll

Today's Circuits section of the New York Times features an article on literary blog hoaxes: Wry Hoaxes Enliven the World of Web Diarists

The article mentions the recent Plain Layne incident, which really captured my interest for a few days, as well as a phony Clinton book-tour blog and the Andy Kaufman blog.

"It kind of takes the old phenomenon of literary hoaxes a step further, where you're interacting with these authors day by day," said Alex Boese, who runs the Museum of Hoaxes, an online compendium of urban legends and other fakery. "And it's so easy to hide your identity online and to hide the contextual clues that people would need to find out who you are."

Except that, in each of the above cases, the techno-savvy sleuths of the blogosphere manage to find what has been hidden, to uncover those clues and latch onto a context and eventually, to discover the hoax and/or its perpetrator. There were some pretty detailed content and comparative content analyses going on during the Plain Layne disappearance, as well. Lots of cybersleuthing, plus the advantage of many, many minds working together means that perhaps it's not really so easy to hide, after all: well, at least not if anyone wants to find you!

One of the reasons that I got so very hooked on the Plain Layne "disappearance" was because of the very interesting discussions of online identity that surged around the hoax. Reactions were all over the place. Some felt completely betrayed, while others pointed out that it's wisest to consider all online personalities as fictional constructs, unless they're personally known to you. Still others pointed out that even folks who make an effort to represent the "real" story of their lives and the "true" nature of their personality, etc. are presenting a slice of themselves, and from only one perspective, and therefore one still doesn't get to know the real person. Identity just seems to be one of those classic CMC/Internet Studies topics that keeps going and going . . . years after the introduction of identity issues into the CMC literature, this topic still has legs. I wonder where it'll walk to next?

- posted by laurie @ 7/29/2004 10:08:00 AM
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