Trust in Adherence to a Predefined Role – EIC 2013

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.

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Article in German Business Magazine “Brand eins”

Carolyn Braun has written a nice short article about my Bauta project for the German business magazine “Brand eins“. The title of the article is “Die Maske der Ehrbaren”, which is a variation of my old ISSE presentation title “The Mask of the Honorable Citizen”. If you do not want to read it, you can alternatively listen to it or download it as a MP3-file (choose “brand eins 07 / 2012 Schwerpunkt: Digitale Wirtschaft”, then right click on Hören).

Unfortunately the article starts with a little mistake. It says that all Anonymous activists in Germany call each other “Bernd”. Of course I never said something like that. I also know that the author got it right. The mistake is probably a result of a last minute shortening done by the Brand eins editorial board. “Bernd” is the name which is used by all the members of the German image board “Krautchan”, while “Anonymous” is the name used by all members of the international image board “4Chan”. You can find more information about this at the end of this article. But apart from that I really like the article, and discussing the Bauta topic with the author was fun. I am especially pleased with the fact that she uses the word  “Verhüllungsgebot” (obligation to wear masks) in a positive way, which makes an ironic contrast to the German term “Vermummungsverbot” (ban of wearing masks). Unfortunately, in Englisch there is no pair of words which has the same effect.

During the interview I suddenly understood that there is a “freedom of speech” aspect of wearing masks which I did not see until now. It puts the aspect of “deindividuation” (read more) in a new perspective. Deindividuation effects can be helpful for shy persons ot those with a lack of self-confidence, because it makes it easier for them to take part in political or other discussions which tend to get “personal”. A simple fact, not new, somehow trivial, but think I will have to write a special article about that.

The German radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur reported on the respective issue of Brand eins magazine. You can listen to the feature on their website or download it, the masks are mentioned in the last quarter.

All pages have been checked for the last time on August 11th 2012.

Presentation at Siegen University

Prof. Dr. Kesdogan, Head of  Research Group at the Business Informatics Chair at Siegen University, invited me to hold a presentation on the Venetian anonymity concept on Frebruary 23rd, 2012. The presentation took place and perhaps leads to an official research project. Teachers and students were especially interested in how to use elements of the Venetion concept to design models of anonymous participation in organizational and political, perhaps municipal decision making processes.

New sources: Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is director of International Freedom of Expression at the US organization Electronic Frontier Foundation. Some of her articles and a lot of the interviews she has given provide excellent insights into chances and problems of anonymity and pseudonymity on the internet and on closed social network platforms. “A case for pseudonyms” for example explains why being able to use a pseudonym sometimes saves one’s life and often is an important factor to guarantee freedom of speech. “Lieber anonym als verfolgt” partly is a German translation published in the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”.  In “San Francisco Organization Fights For Online Anonymity” by CBS San Francisco Jillian C. York briefly summarizes why she does not like the ban of user pseudonyms by Google+ and Facebook.

Thanks!

I‘d like to thank Michel Kabay who has given me extremely valuable advice and pointed out some mistakes in the initial posts and pages of this blog. One of his essays will be one of the most important sources for upcoming work, so watch out for news in the “sources” page.