There have been a number of discussions about the ethics of blogging under a pseudonym, and whether a blogger using a pseudonym was in some way less credible than a blogger who used his or her real name. It has come to the surface again because of the vindictive outing of an Alaskan blogger by a politician who didn’t like what she had written. This was particularly ugly, because the only purpose to the outing was to hurt the blogger. It was a petty and childish action.
I don’t know why this blogger chose a pseudonym, and it doesn’t matter. It was her decision to make and should have been respected. The only time the identity of a writer is relevant in evaluating an argument is when the author presents him or herself as an expert. If the author is not claiming special expertise, then the position the author is taking can and should be evaluated on it’s own merits, not the reputation of the author.
There are many reasons to use a pen-name, or maybe I should say a keyboard-name, some serious, some trivial. My choice of nom d’blog began as entirely trivial. I like the name. I am not especially worried about anonymity, and most of the people that I know regularly read my blog know who I am. But I do have some non-trivial considerations. As a teacher I like keeping a certain distance between my teacher hat and my private opinions. I do not write about my students in an identifiable form, but maintaining a separation makes that even a bit more secure. I am generally willing to discuss my political positions with students, when it is relevant to the class discussion, or outside of class, but I am not particularly interested in having my students Google my name and come up with everything I have ever posted to drag into class discussions when it isn’t relevant.
I am not easily intimidated, and would not change what I have written if I knew it would have my name attached to it, but I have found some interesting features to pseudonymity. I use the same name to comment on other blogs, some with much higher traffic than my own, and so have interacted as Shadowcatdancing with a variety of people, and have found them sometimes making assumptions about my age, gender, etc. that have brought home the fact that they must judge me on my words alone, without any of the cues that we use to so conveniently pigeonhole people in face-to-face interactions. I has been downright educational. And I don’t want to give that up. At lest, not yet.
It would not be difficult to track me down, and eventually some student will undoubtedly do so. When it does I will likely be a little annoyed, but it won’t change what I say, and I won’t start using my “real” name, because, as I said before, I like Shadowcatdancing, and it is as much my name as the one on my birth certificate.