On the Internet, Nobody Knows you're a Cat

Anonymity and its Prospects in the Digital World - Working Paper No. 38 by Thorsten Thiel

On the internet, nobody knows you're a cat. (Photo: flickr, http://bit.ly/2AbLhvT, CC BY-NC 2.0)

On the internet, nobody knows you're a cat. (Photo: flickr, http://bit.ly/2AbLhvT, CC BY-NC 2.0)

In the PRIF Work­ing Paper No. 38 "Anonymity and its Prospects in the Digital World" Thorsten Thiel traces the changes under­gone by anony­mity – and by the dis­courses sur­rounding it – in liberal Western societies. He asks whether the cur­rent politici­zation of the issue is likely to have any im­pact on the gradual dis­appear­ance of oppor­tuni­ties for anony­mity that we are cur­rently witnes­sing and argues that anony­mity is an ambi­valent but critical feature of the demo­cratic public sphere.

The argu­ment pro­ceeds in three stages. It begins with a number of concep­tual obser­vations on anony­mity. From these, a heuristic frame­work emerges with which the changes in anony­mous communi­cation, and in the role this communi­cation plays in society, can be described. The author then analyses the extent to which options for anony­mity have been affected by the rev­olu­tion in in­for­mation and communi­cation techno­logies and concludes by con­sidering how anony­mity is framed in public dis­course and what impacts this has.

Download (pdf, 181kb): Thiel, Thorsten (2017): Anonymity and its Prospects in the Digital World, PRIF Working Papers No. 38, Frankfurt/M.