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Beyond a Dichotomous Understanding of Online Anonymity: Bridging the Macro and Micro Level

Lina Eklund, Emma von Essen, Fatima Jonsson and Magnus Johansson
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Lina Eklund: Uppsala University, Sweden
Emma von Essen: Stockholm University, Sweden
Fatima Jonsson: Södertörn University, Sweden
Magnus Johansson: Uppsala University, Sweden

Sociological Research Online, 2022, vol. 27, issue 2, 486-503

Abstract: Anonymity on the Internet is a contentious issue; by some seen as an important freedom to be protected, while others argue for increased identification to protect groups at risk of exploitation. The debate reflects a dichotomous view of online anonymity; you are, or you are not anonymous. However, anonymity is a complex process played out on different levels and defined by various actors. While empirical studies show this, theoretical synthesis is lacking. This essay provides perspective on anonymity online by comparing two critical cases, online auctions and online gaming, we corroborate results from a 4-year interdisciplinary project with researchers from sociology, economics, and computer and system sciences. We argue that one should talk about anonymities in plural form, as online anonymity is not a state but a relational process. We put forth a conceptual model, which unpacks online anonymity as interdependent macro structures – legal, commercial, and technological – and micro/meso facets – factual, social group, and physical – to be used in future research.

Keywords: embodiment; online anonymity; online auctions; online gaming; social identity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1177/13607804211019760

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