Apparatus of Absence: Anonymity from Print to Algorithms

© Media Watch 10 (1) 106-121, 2019
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2019/v10i1/49569


Apparatus of Absence: Anonymity from Print to Algorithms

Government Victoria College (Kerala), India

The paper tries to problematize the concept and contexts of digital anonymity by placing it along with literary modernity. The biopower that digital text generates has created and complicated an industry of data and surveillance of user profiles and throws the processes of textual subjectification to more visibility. Anonymity in print has been a phenomenon that was consequential of and integral to the institution of authorship. Even if authorship has been an important terrain of interest in digital studies, print authorship in all its socio-cultural specificities as a Eurocentric patriarchal construct within the field of artistic production has rarely been studied in relation to the evolving digital existence. The paper attempts to present an overview of contexts of anonymity in print and a review of existing approaches toward it in the web and to address a theoretical gap found therein. Away from the prevalent moral perceptions about anonymity, the paper presents anonymity as a larger apparatus rooted in the publishing practices in literary modernity where authorship and anonymity remained as mutually augmenting mechanisms of absence and presence. In algorithmic cultures, the materializing of absence as presence endures in more rigid forms necessitating continuous struggles over the question of anonymity. The paper is concluded by referring to gendered anonymity in the digital space as one terrain that reflects the nature of this continuous struggle.

Keywords: Anonymity, algorithmic cultures, literary modernity, authorship, gender


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Sreepriya Balakrishnan holds a doctorate in English literature from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam (India) and has been into teaching and research for more than ten years. Her area of research crisscrosses literature studies and digital humanities.