// Posted by Cameron on 02/13/2012 (8:05 PM)
For class last week, we read the first few chapters of Mark Poster’s book, Information Please. As he began, he wrote about how in online networks, the authors of information are anonymous. While he used to be able to know who was writing information; however, this is no longer the case with information on digital networks. As I was reading this, I began to think about a recent experience of mine.
A few weeks prior, as a part of one of my on campus jobs, I was charged with creating a Wiki page for the Office of the Chaplaincy. I had used Wikipedia hundreds of times to investigate a wide variety of topics, but had never created a page, or even edited one for that matter, so this was a new adventure.
As I began on this project, my boss told me that I was welcome to use the information on the Chaplaincy’s website; however, while copying this information was acceptable for my boss, it was not for the Wiki community. Before I knew it, someone known in that community as WildCowboy had flagged my post for violating Wikipedia’s copyright rules. As I continued to work on this issue, and eventually fixed it, I encountered a number of other characters within the Wikipedia community who amended parts of this page.
This time lapse video displays where edits of Wikipedia pages were made over an eight year span.
Through this experience, I learned much more about the community on Wikipedia and how it works, but I also learned more about what Poster was writing. Although you can search back through the history and see who made specific changes to any Wiki page, you cannot know their real identity. So while I know that WildCowboy has since made minor edits on my pages, I have no clue about his identity. This experience has taught me much about the digital community and how anonymous authors truly are.
Is the anonymity of authorship on the Internet a benefit or a liability? If it is a benefit, then should authors of information in non-digital realms be anonymous too or only those on the Internet? If it is a liability, can we fix it and require people to input their identity and hold them accountable?