Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Affect of Anonymity

I was fascinated by the following statement from Gabriella Coleman's "Our Weirdness is Free": "Anonymous has developed a loose structure, with technical resources such as Internet Relay Chat (IRC) being run and controlled by a handful of elites, but these elites have erected no formal barriers to participation, such as initiation guidelines or screening processes, and ethical norms tend to be established consensually and enforced by all." Similarly fascinating: "Beyond a foundational commitment to anonymity and the free flow of information, Anonymous has no consistent philosophy or political program." As Coleman acknowledges, Anonymous seems to have no definite trajectory or organization, yet successfully launches collective action in different contexts, both online and off.

The fluid nature of Anonymous is rooted in the fact that the movement is not bound to any place. Simply, the group acts "on the wing," so that their actions are temporally bound but not necessarily organized around a physical space. I wonder what we can make of this, given the fact that members of the group wear a mask. The mask creates a collective by hiding the individual. What affect does the mask produce, and how does the anonymity it gives allow for greater political participation? How does the fluid structure of Anonymous produce an affect that allows for greater political participation? How cn we understand Anonymous in light of Thrift's discussion of affective contagion?

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