December 09, 2006

k-punk and I


Does A. C. Grayling really not see the difference between being anonymous and using a synonym?

The somewhat attenuated discussion of anonymity and attribution over in Voyou's comments box feeds into a series of recent posts: Sinthome's reflections on (his) name and naming, and a cluster of related posts by Steve, Jodi ,Kim and Dejan. A theme here is blogging's tendency to summon a strange double, a second self that seems both alien yet which cannot entirely be disavowed.

It doesn't strike me that, in this respect, blogging is different from any other type of published writing. As Borges established in his masterly micro-vignette on the irreducibly gothic character of writing, 'Borges and I', even if one writes in one's own name, writing itself produces a semblable, a doppelganger which both is and is not oneself. (This is quite different from what Steve describes: the deliberate assumption of a wholly invented persona in MOOs, etc.)

Perhaps writing - or more specifically, writing about oneself - only reveals the inherently split nature of the subject: the 'the other one, the one called Borges ... the one things happen to' in 'Borges and I' is the subject of the statement, the Borges who observes that 'I do not know which of us has written this page' is the subject of the enunciation. Any use of the pronoun 'I' will always exposes this split, this spaltung.

I make no special effort to conceal my surname online; the reason I do not use it is more because I dislike, even loathe it, than because I want to keep it a secret. I loathe my name because it is mine and also because it is not mine; it is at once too intimate and seems to have no connection with me. Perhaps because the name is quite common, it never seems to fit me, or fit me alone. Nevertheless, when I see the name, I always feel a peculiar sense of shame.

(I'm reminded here of the Tom Ripley of The Talented Mr Ripley. If 'Tom hated being Tom', it's in part because he has to use his own name again. Yet one of the surprises of the later Ripley novels is that Tom does not end up using another name, even it would be a straightforward task for a master forger and mimic like him to permanently assume someone else's identity. Tom makes a name for himself; but more significantly, he makes a - new, sophisticated, stylish, charming - self for his name.)

The pseudonym facilitates the escape from biography. I never chose the name 'Mark k-punk'; I started being called it for obvious reasons (the name of the site, plus the fact that I post here only under the name 'Mark'), but I embrace it and now use it because it seems more like my True Name than the name on my birth certificate ever will. It suggests a performance, but not one that is false. Someone wrote to me recently saying that they had seen a film and immediately asked themselves 'what would k-punk think?' Of course, I ask myself such questions.

That is because a subject is always a subject for someone or something else. One of the best aspects of Zizek's lectures in the summer at Birkbeck was his discussion of the irreducibility of prosopopeia: that there is never a subject in or for itself, that all modes of subjectivity, no matter how ostensibly interior they are, involve a minimal performance for an Other, even if that other is only ever virtual.

It's not that there aren't problems with anonymity, or pseudonomy. The troll's use of the pseudonym, for instance, is often a way of escaping accountability or responsibility. The issue is consistency, and the troll's refusal to be identified with a set of positions which themselves could be interrogated (this is unlikely to be the case with a blogger using a pseudonym); what irks about trolls is their implicit claim to be 'speaking from nowhere', i.e. from the position of commonsense, or on behalf of others. (I.T.'s recent troll exemplified both these tendencies perfectly.) Theirs is performance of and for the big Other; witness the fact that abuse in comments boxes is far more common than abusive email, where there is no audience to observe the performance of disdain.

Incidentally, I.T.'s recent difficulties makes clear the dangers of not being anonymous - ironically because, officially, as it were, she posts anonymously. You really do have to wonder about the level of a mind which would report a blogger to their employer, don't you?

Posted by mark at December 9, 2006 07:44 PM | TrackBack