understanding the importance and impact of anonymity and authentication in a networked society
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Rob Carey
Post-doctoral fellow, University of Western Ontario

Rob completed a doctorate in 2003 at The Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario.

Research

Rob’s research in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies has four strands.

1. Towards a Conceptual and Behavioral Model of Anonymity on the Internet

This is a qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews with 18-30 participants, preparatory to a factor analysis (PARAFAC) intended to identify the underlying conceptual dimensions of anonymity with a particular emphasis on variables associated with anonymity, identity and Internet behavior. Our ultimate objective is to create a conceptual and behavioral model of Anonymity that is both amenable to further empirical research and that reflects anonymity’s complex manifestations in everyday computing environments. The project will offer an important and significant contribution to the scholarship of computer-mediated communication.

2. Literature Review/Meta-Analysis on the Behavioral Effects of Anonymity in Computer-Mediated Communication

Despite a preponderance of experimental research on the behavioral effects of anonymity and computer-mediated communication, no one has yet undertaken a systematic review of the literature. This paper will provide a comprehensive review of behavioral effects attributed to anonymity in the experimental literature arising from computer-mediated communication and associated fields such as social psychology, economics and sociology.

3. Conceptualizing Anonymity

Despite the importance of ‘anonymity’ to popular and academic discussions of CMC, the term’s conceptual status and its importance as a predictor of behavioral effects are far from clear. In this paper, we offer a comprehensive review of the various ways anonymity has been conceptualized by experimental researchers in the social sciences. We also argue for the usefulness of a model based on Wallace’s notion of anonymity as the noncoordinatability of traits in a given respect (Wallace, 1999).

4. Framing Anonymity: How the Mass Media Configures Anonymity and Information Technology

Mass media coverage is obviously a crucial factor in shaping people’s perceptions of issues surrounding information technology, privacy and anonymity. This series of papers will systematically explore the means by which traditional mass media in North America frame the concept of anonymity in relation to information technology. Our qualitative analysis will encompass the moral, political and psychological implications of anonymity, and the mass media’s treatment of these elements.
 
 
Research
 
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This is a SSHRC funded project:
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

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