25 February 2006

jo(e)'s Pseudonymous Meme

Jo(e) has invented another great meme, The Pseudonymous Meme, inspired by excellent discussion over at Dr. Crazy's and New Kid's.

Is your blogging persona more serious than your real life persona? Not exactly. I'm a pretty serious person--well, a pretty dignified person, or at least a person to whom dignity is very important. And thus I have a hard time being silly (although having a child has changed that quite a bit. I can be a very silly mama).

When I blog, I am often writing from or toward my best self--writing about the mother or person I hope to be. I don't always write about my petty moments, my mean moments, my utterly distracted moments, my selfish moments. I guess we all do that to some extent, at least some of the time.

Do you think the only safe way an academic can write publicly is to write anonymously? What jo(e) said: Of course not. I participate in discussion lists under my real name. I write other things under my real name. But yeah, ask me again in a few years after the Bush administration has taken away even more of our civil liberties. My blog isn't particularly academic, something I occasionally feel guilty about since I enjoy reading other people's academic stories and never get around to telling my own. So my blog is a place where some of my neuroses play out. Like all the rest of my life.

Do you think that your blog could ruin your career? Nah. On some days, sure, I peek at blogs too much. But before I peeked at blogs too much I had other ways of procrastinating. And I still managed to get myself promoted to full professor. Of course, part of my still feels like a fraud, but that's a kind of academic neurosis that also predated blogging.

What would happen if an administrator at my college discovered my blog? Not much, if anything.

Do you use a pseudonym out of fear? Not exactly. I am carefully pseudonymous about Curious Girl, both in terms of her photos and her life story. Is that fear, paranoia, or careful parenting? Maybe a mixture of both.

What is the biggest drawback to writing pseudonymously? I can't really think of any.

Has anyone stumbled on your blog and found it accidentally? No (at least not that I know of).

Have you outed yourself to other bloggers? I've traded names with two other pseudonymous bloggers. I've not yet had the opportunity to meet up with many bloggers (but hope to meet some people, including jo(e), at Big Professional Conference next month in the Big City With the Loveable Losing Baseball Team).

Has your blog allowed you to experiment with writing?Not really. It's allowed me to write about different topics that aren't addressed in my professional writing. It's allowed me to think through some issues about adoption and adoptive parenting that I don't always have other outlets for. Politica and I talk about those issues frequently, of course, and I'm a member of a yahoogroup that does so, too, but on a blog I can write longer and on my own schedule about those topics. And I've made different connections with other bloggers who care about the same sets of issues I do. And I like the cascading communities where mama bloggers and academic bloggers intersect. And the adoption blogging community is just crucial to me as a parent: I am a way, way better parent for the chance to read so many stories by other adoptive parents, by first mothers, by adoptees.

Why do you use a pseudonym? Well, partly because of Curious Girl; I want to protect her privacy. And partly because of my own inadequacy shtick. I wouldn't be confident that people would think *i* had something to say. But my little blogging persona, well, that was something a little different. It felt safer to start. And many of the blogs I read--in fact, almost all the blogs I read--are reasonably pseudonymous. So I wanted to fit in. I kind of liked the way some of the bloggers used a seemingly-real first name even amidst other pseudonymity, so that's what I decided to do (plus I couldn't think of a good pseudonym for myself. I went back and forth whether I wanted to sign my posts Crunchy or Susan, actually, and decided that Crunchy sounded too much like a clown name, and I don't like clowns. So Susan it was.)

I guess the downside is that I don't like to comment on academic blogs written by people in my field who use their names (although I could create another blogger id with my professional name to do so, I guess.). Somehow it seems weird to comment with a veiled id on a blog of someone I know. But then, I really don't like reading professional blogs (by which I mean blogs which are engaging professional issues in a professional way). I like reading blogs by academics--the ones on my blogroll--which often raise general teaching or academic issues I can relate to. But I don't look to blogs as a professional discussion. I get those needs met in other ways right now.


Phantom Scribbler said...

Thanks for broadening the discussion to include a wider range of blogs (by including your reasons to use a pseudonym as a parent and not just a professor). This is a topic I'm really trying to work through as I consider writing about mothering for the first time under my own name. What are the ethical considerations to using my family as my subject when to do so will drag their own, identifiable lives into the public sphere in some small way. I can't decide if my hesitations are fueled by the taboos of my own childhood (don't discuss what happens in the family!) or because I don't want my kids to end up like Madeleine L'Engle's!

peripateticpolarbear said...

Thanks for this.

Ahistoricality said...

The question of commenting on people's blogs pseudonymously is one that I've dealt with as well. Since I've tried hard to separate my academic and political/goofy blogging (I don't blog family stuff, much), I have sometimes had to choose which name I would use to comment on other folks' blogs under both Blogger and elsewhere.

susan said...

Welcome, ahistoricality! I don't know why it seems such a hassle to me to have different online identities (which I do, I guess: i participate in work-related listservs with my real name showing). But I don't like logging in/logging out of things. But I'm glad to see someone besides me has thought about that.

ABD Mom's version of this meme mentions that she uses a pseudonym precisely b/c she writes about her daughter and she wans to protect her child's privacy. I'm hoping that Scrivener will comment on this, since he's made some different choices about this (assuming that Chloe and Ella are not, in fact, pseudonyms! It's easy enough to figure out Scrivener's RL identity but he has crafted an online name that is used much more often by bloggers writing to and about him, but he's pretty free with photos and stories about his (fabulous, amazing) daughters.)

I remember that Anna Quindlan stopped writing her NYT columns when her children were old enough to read about themselves in them. Her columns were, in a way, a precursor of mama blog posts; they often had the same kind of narrative bent to them. Phantom, if you started writing about motherhood under your own name, I guess you'd have to decide whether to try to build on the Phantom credibility or whether to have it be totally separate (something that Bitch PhD talked about a little in her version of this meme).

That jo(e) sure knows how to start a conversation!