One of the themes that seems to be touched on here at SXSW Interactive 2010 is the way the internet has changed our personas. Douglas Rushkoff talked about this in his Friday keynote, and a panel of indie content producers* also touched on it in today. Anonymity, as proposed by John Gabriel, changes our behavior and corrodes social structure. It eliminates accountability to one another, and more importantly, it makes us unrecognizable to our peers.
Rushkoff formulates his solution to this problem in a commandment “Thou shalt not be anonymous” (or Anonymous). This is the social side – the kind of tenet an individual can follow to make a small scale difference.
On the technical side, we seem to see more developers disincentivizing anonymity – they make people register for blog comments and they link content back to social networks to bootstrap a pervasive identity for each person. The game mechanics that are becoming pervasive in non-game contexts (showcased by Andy Baio on Saturday) are used to create achievements that users want to take credit for and accumulate.
The core question is whether shedding anonymity will ultimately be good for transmedia creators.
With so much transmedia art (alternate reality as well as traditional viral work) done under the auspices of advertising, there is a tradition of anonymity for the ad creators. At the same time, the movement toward web sociality is giving rise to organic personal branding – created by a person, not promoting themself viciously, but by becoming known through the virtual presence they create by participating in social media. These kinds of brands seem to have higher value, to me, than any corporate brand ever could: a corporation is essentially a conglomeration of faceless individuals. Corporations are anonymous. People are not.
* Evan Shapiro, Marc Lieberman, Jake Dobkin, Harvey Smith, and Sean Lennon
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