Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Anonymous is the final boss of the internet. Anonymous works as one, because none of us are as cruel as all of us. Anonymous is the enemy of Anonymous. Anonymous is your family and friends. Anonymous is not your friend. Anonymous has no identity.

Encyclopedia Dramatica explains that "Anonymous is not a person, nor is a group, movement, or cause: Anonymous is a collective of people with too much time on their hands, a commune of human thought and useless imagery." It refers, in this usage, to a vague community of the frequenters (most often posting anonymously) of various internet message boards (especially imageboards) and a few other websites. In many aspects, the culture associated with Anonymous is wholly unique, and its relationship to the ideas of Imagined Communities and Imagined Networks are interesting to examine. Its very nature, and self-defined traits, put it at odds with many traditional ideas of community, network, and, to some degree, many schema for human interactions.

I intend to examine what is central to the idea and, if such a thing exists, definition of Anonymous and, by extension, examine the phenomenon of the "Cancer" that many members feel is "killing" the culture. By considering some of the central traits and common threads of Anonymous through Anderson's Imagined Communities, while also drawing from Terranova, Stephenson, and Gibson on can, perhaps, come to an understanding of exactly what Anonymous means. Then, one must analyze the self-described "Cancer" through the lens of Wald's writing on outbreak narratives, to come to an understanding of the pathologies that are "killing" Anonymous. This all leads to the question "How does the 'Cancer' of Anonymous relate to its unique relationship with the concept of a community?" The differences between the outbreak narrative of "Cancer" among Anonymous and more traditional outbreaks in the physical world, viewed through the tropes Wald observes in Contagious, can lead to a better understanding of Anonymous in relation to other communities by elucidating the aspects in which it diverges from most other communities and those in which it does not.

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