Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Blog identities

A few centuries ago, philosophers and other writers would publish their works under the name of an ancient authority, or claim to have found a “long-lost work” of Aristotle’s, Cicero’s, etc. The habit of assuming someone else’s identity in order to advance your own work has fallen out of fashion in the last couple hundred years (fake Hitler diaries and the like excepted); but I see a curious parallel between that phenomenon and that of identity spoofing in blogs, Friendster, etc..

The tradition of political satire is as old as politics itself (or maybe just a few days younger); and a few people have made (brief) careers spoofing specific politicians: think of Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford, Dana Carvey’s George Bush, or Vaughn Maeder’s records about the Kennedy White House. Still, I have the feeling that there’s a difference between those and things like the illmatic, Kim Jong Il’s blog. For one thing, you knew who Dana Carvey was, and he had other comic personae; whoever writes “illmatic” has assumed a full-time (for blogging purposes) persona. This demands a level of imaginative complexity, the construction of an alternate universe, that almost makes it more like Everquest than traditional satire. Who knew, for example, that Saddam Hussein is on a diet?

Update: Connected Selves dissects different kinds of fakesters, and offers an observation on their value.

1 Comment

  1. On a semi-related note (writing and identity), I just submitted several samples through Gender Genie and discovered that my husband has somehow contravened the “marriage = one man and one woman” mandate currently in vogue among the more conservative of the constituency.

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