Online Culture and the Appeal of Anonymity in Education
It goes without saying that social networking has redefined the ways in which we interact with each other and our socio-expectations regarding modern discourses surrounding the concept of communication. However, I have become curious lately about the ways in which online education can possibly surpass classroom learning, and furthermore, how the idea of anonymity can somehow enhance student-centered learning.
I was inspired by reading Triple Canopy‘s excellent issue fifteen: Negative Infinity, specifically, David Auerbach’s article, “Anonymity as Culture: Case Studies.” In it, he describes various instances of online users interacting with each other anonymously, which grants them the freedom to engage in dialogues that are truly unique to the culture and patois that they’ve created. Auerbach calls this community A-Culture and though some of the case studies that he illustrates seem reprehensible or considerably far-fetched, it inspired me to think about how students engage themselves in this type of culture and what kind of effect it has upon how they learn, if at all.
In resorting to Google to help me answer my questions (how modern), I happened upon this article by Mark Kassop (Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses, Face-to-Face Learning) and I tried to read it resistantly, considering all of Kassop’s arguments but imagining the student as Anonymous. Clearly, doing so brings up a number of problems: mainly, how would the student get graded, form a relationship with the instructor, etc. With that said, it also allows for an interesting conceit; by stripping away the pretensions and inhibitions of the student, the student would be able to engage in learning mainly for the sake of learning and could theoretically allow for a community that values the exploration of ideas.
This would probably never work. Based on my exploration of anonymous online culture and the negative connotations most often associated with it I don’t think that users would engage in it like an idealistic teacher such as me would hope for. If anyone reading this knows of an online community where this type of engagement happens (and actually works), I would love to know about it.