Revisiting E-topia: Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Findings on Online Anonymity

Research output: Working paper


As social hierarchies along identity markers of gender, race, age etc. are replicated within participatory spaces, the question arises as to how online participation and its modes of identity reconfiguration might affect this dilemma. This paper first revisits the discussions about cyber democracy in the 1990's, which focused on the liberating effects of anonymity facilitating an inclusive sphere of equals. It then moves on to the arguments of cyber feminist debates, criticizing the naivety of cyber democracy by pointing to the persistence of offline inequalities in cyberspace. Current discussions pick up this criticism and focus on visual re-embodiment and the persistence of identity online. After giving an overview of these theoretical debates, the paper turns to empirical findings on the effects of online anonymity. Various studies from different disciplines show that anonymity has both democratic and anti-democratic effects. It both liberates the democratic subjects and at the same time contributes to new modes of domination. Thus, the theoretical accounts of optimistic cyber democrats and pessimistic cyber feminists together contribute to a holistic understanding of online anonymity in participatory spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra
Number of pages15
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCentre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance Working Paper Series


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