Anonymity, in Dewey Bunell’s song, evokes a lonely rider. High “on a horse with no name,” a. k. a. cocaine, the rider is part of an imaginary, where anonymity grants freedom from social control and norms. In tension with the romantic image of a free life, accountable to no one, stand other experiences with anonymity. Unac- countability can be the breeding ground for racism, for example, or for genocidal crimes. Anonymity can also be an inherent part of such crimes, enabling further violence toward those who are robbed of their name, rights, and protections. The freedom granted by anonym- ity is deeply problematic. But freedom is not the only thing that anonymity has to offer. In Courtney Barnett’s “Anonymous Club,” we might, if we believe the song, encounter more caring forms of togetherness, unconstrained by name badges. Anonymity can take many forms, ranging from coked-up riders all the way to hyperlocal, technologically delinked but socially intensively connected utopias.
Anonymity is highly contested, marking the limits of civil liberties and legality. Digital technologies of communication, identification, and surveillance put anonymity to the test. They challenge how anonymity can be achieved, and dismantled. Everyday digital practices and claims for transparency shape the ways in which anonymity is desired, done, and undone.
The Book of Anonymity includes contributions by artists, anthropologists, sociologists, media scholars, and art historians. It features ethnographic research, conceptual work, and artistic practices conducted in France, Germany, India, Iran, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. From police to hacking cultures, from Bitcoin to sperm donation, from Yik-Yak to Amazon and IKEA, from DNA to Big Data — thirty essays address how the reconfiguration of anonymity transforms our concepts of privacy, property, self, kin, addiction, currency, and labor.
The Book of Anonymity is written in the tradition of author-less texts. Editing and contributing anonymously constitute experiments in anonymity that speak to the aggressive valuation regimes shaping contemporary artistic and academic knowledge productions alike. This is not to discount the usefulness of attribution, but to trouble the ease with which labour is still dissected, measured and attached to the nexus of person, value and knowledge. To name, one contribution insists is to “define people, things, as individuals, to mark them, hold them, hierarchize them, to press them into service and turn them into value.” Another contribution advocates and questions if an ethics of anonymity can engender the kind of care that individualised practices arguably strive for yet undermine. Not all contributions speak to such concerns directly but all consider what is at stake in the im/possibilities of anonymous expression, at a time of thick digital traces. Editing and contributing anonymously thus is a practical commitment to one of the red threads that criss-cross the kaleidoscopic accounts presented in this book.
Toward a Kaleidoscopic Understanding of Anonymity
Artistic Research on Anonymity
Anonymity and Transgression: Caste, Social Reform, and Blood Donation in India
Anonymity: The Politicisation of a Concept
Big Data’s End Run around Anonymity and Consent
A List of Famous Artists Who Used to Be Invigilators
Anonymity as Everyday Phenomenon and as a Topic of Research
Anonymity on Demand: The Great Offshore
DNA Works! Merging Genetics and the Digital Realm
Sanitary Policy and the Policy of Anonymity: Observations on a Game on Endocrine Disruptors
Where Do the Data Live? Anonymity and Neighborhood Networks
Fraught Platform Governmentality: Anonymity, Content Moderation, and Regulatory Strategies over Yik Yak
Anonymity: Obsolescence and Desire
Policing Normality: Police Work, Anonymity, and a Sociology of the Mundane
Amazonian Flesh: How to Hang in Trees during Strike?
Proximity, Distance, and State Powers: Policing Practices and the Regulation of Anonymity
Dual Reality: (Un)Observed Magic in the Workplace
A Provisional Manifesto for Invigilator-Friendly Artworks, or Your Artwork Is an Invigilator’s Labor Conditions: Informally Sourced from Security Guards at an Art Gallery in Central London
Care or Control? Police, Youth, and Mutual Anonymity
Collective Pleasures of Anonymity: From Public Restrooms to 4chan and Chatroulette
Transformella Malor Ikeae: InnerCity Ikeality [188.8.131.52]
Longing for a Selfless Self and other Ambivalences of Anonymity: A Personal Account
Speak their Endless Names
Bitcoin Anonymous? Of Trust in Code and Paper
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