A Circle of Anonymous Ferrets

Anonymouse Hippo

Our class’ recent collaborative effort to answer the essay prompt posed some new interesting angles on Dave Eggers’ The Circle. We have recently discussed how the fictional events of the novel reveal some eerily familiar truths about the future path of society. Some readers take Eggers’ novel as playful satire while others cringe at its potentially prophetic nature. With the new construction plans for the Google headquarters in California, the events, products, interactions, and overall concept of The Circle suddenly don’t seem as farfetched. In a more local sense, the collaborative essay revealed a lot about online identities and anonymity, both prevalent concepts from the Circle.

It was interesting to note how many classmates used anonymous profiles to answer the questions. This was likely for a number of reasons. The first being that they did not want the pressure of posting an inadequate response or grammatical error and having it tied to their name. As a signed-in user, with their name on the profile, other users could see the user’s exact typing as it occurred. This put signed-in users in a more vulnerable state than the rest of the responders.

For other anonymous users, “Anonymous Ferret” was just a façade that could be hidden behind either actively or passively. Anonymity allowed for responders to say anything they wanted without consequence, or they could remain idle without anyone knowing their lack of participation. I wasn’t an observer this week, but I did notice that there were zero idle profiles where students were logged in using their actual names. On the other hand, there were numerous users in each document whose cursor remained in the same location for the entirety of the class. This trend is similar to that of modern-day internet with “Catfishing” and trolling. Ironically enough, our class engages in the same behavior we frown upon and blog about.

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