On 16 May 2013, at the invitation of Jörg Resch and after my lecture in 2010, I was once again guest at the European Identity Conference to talk about the Venetian model of anonymity.
This time it was mainly about finding out why the Venetian anonymity model worked well and did not produce an excessively high crime rate. My basic thesis was – as mentioned in earlier contributions to this blog – that the role-playing element already discussed by Ignatio Toscani had a stabilizing effect:
– Bauta and Tabarro are historically rooted in the traditional carnival and in the role-playing games of the Commedia dell’Arte. The Venetians knew both and were used to them.
– Using the mask as a means of anonymization meant a thoughtful act: one had to “disguise” oneself skilfully, which cost a little effort and time. Wearing the mask meant playing hide and seek and attracting attention at the same time.
– Taking on the role of the “ideal Venetian citizen” also meant accepting the behaviour of a gentleman.
– Venetians who communicated with a bearer of the Bauta could trust that he or she accepted his special political and social role and, in terms of behavior, adhered to the rules of this special kind of game.
– Immediate sanctions were possible in the event of abuse.
– To use the Bauta therefore meant consciously accepting social control and social expectations. It also meant accepting a possible unmasking, a related loss of honour and immediate exclusion from the Venetian community as a sanction for abuse of the privileges offered by the mask and disguise.
– Thus, the mask had a direct and inevitable influence on the behavior of those who used it.
The presentation can be downloaded here.
In the discussion that followed the presentation, the audience was showing interest in the underlying reputation and sanction system of the anonymity model. An ordinary “reward system” does not exist, as the expected behaviour of a masked person was simply “normal” from the point of view of the Venetians. Social pressure, however, did exist as a corrective, and the participants found it interesting that the punishment for misconduct immediately threw the delinquent back into his real, non-anonymous existence and had consequences there.
On the other hand, unmasking a Venetian did not rule out the possibility that the same person later would take part in the anonymous life again, provided he was not sent to prison. Related to anonymous life, a purely behavior-based security existed. This model, the listeners agreed, could be transferred to anonymous platforms on the Internet: Those who behave badly should be simply excluded from those places immediately. If the new registration process is only laborious enough, the pure inconvenience of the sanction could possibly effectively ensure good behaviour.
Note: This blog entry was translated from the German original with the help of artificial intelligence. It’s not perfect, for sure. Please excuse me for any imperfections.