Fields of Anonymity

The goal of my current research is to investigate the way in which various forms of sociality are being augmented by digital media, by focusing on the voices of the digital architects, coders and programmers who create the digital infrastructures in use today.

Specifically, the ethnography I am conducting at the moment is titled “Fields of Anonymity,” which is part of a research consortium between the Universities of Bremen, Hamburg, and Luneburg, who are working on a project titled “Reconfiguring Anonymity – Contemporary Forms of Reciprocity, Identifiability and Accountability in Transformation.“ Because contemporary societies are increasingly based on networked information and infrastructures, we are facing new questions of how networks of information, properties and people can be “cut” or interlinked in order to produce, maintain, abandon or modify anonymity. What infrastructures allow these links to happen? What specific socio-material process or constellations dis-associate or help associate identifying information from a person?

My research takes me to hackers, activists, privacy teams at large corporations, app developers, bloggers, and cryptographers - all stakeholders in the way forms of anonymity are practiced today. My goal is to map the discourses around how digital media technology produces, maintains, abandons or modifies anonymity, and to also highlight the institutional tensions between anonymity activists, privacy teams and data analysts. What are the technical solutions for allowing users to engage in forms of anonymity today? How useful are these tools – both for users, developers, and site administrators?