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.