Anonymity is highly contested, marking the limits of civil liberties and legality.
Digital technologies of communication, identification, and surveillance put anonymity to the test. They challenge how anonymity can be achieved and dismantled. Everyday digital practices and claims for transparency shape how anonymity is desired, done and undone.
The Book of Anonymity includes artists, anthropologists, sociologists, media scholars, and art historians. It features ethnographic research, conceptual work, and artistic practices conducted in France, Germany, India, Iran, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. From police to hacking cultures, from Bitcoin to sperm donation, from Yik-Yak to Amazon and IKEA, from DNA to Big Data — thirty essays address how the reconfiguration of anonymity transforms our concepts of privacy, property, self, kin, addiction, currency, and labour.
The book is written pseudo-anonymously. Editing and contributing anonymously constitutes an experiment that speaks to the aggressive valuation regimes shaping contemporary artistic and academic knowledge productions alike. This is not to discount the usefulness of attribution but to trouble the ease with which labour is still dissected, measured and attached to the nexus of person, value and knowledge.
To name, one contribution insists is to “define people, things, as individuals, to mark them, hold them, hierarchise them, to press them into service and turn them into value.” Another contribution advocates and questions if ethics of anonymity can engender the kind of care that individualised practices arguably strive for yet undermine. Not all contributions speak to such concerns directly, but all consider what is at stake in the im/possibilities of anonymous expression at a time of thick digital traces.
Disciplines too identifies, bestowing authority and value. In this volume, we do not sort the disciplined from the undisciplined, nor do we mark where science ends and art starts.
The Book of Anonymity is a stunning achievement! It is luxuriantly interdisciplinary, highly original, and deeply reflective. […] It should be in the library of anyone concerned with information control and revelation issues, as these touch anonymity and identifiability, privacy and publicity and secrecy and transparency. Whether involving scholarship, activism or art, the varied articles strike at the very core of contemporary new technology communication issues such as trust, legitimacy, access, authority and power, and the principled reciprocity central to the social bond and a decent (or, when these are lacking) indecent society.
Gary T. Marx, MIT Prof Emeritus
Available in print and digitally
Anon, Götz Bachmann, Dwaipayan Banerjee, Solon Barocas, Aram Bartholl, Amelie Baumann, Paula Bialski, Andreas Broeckmann, Heath Bunting, Martin De Bie, Bureau d’études, Jacob Copeman, Abigail Curlew, Stéphane Degoutin, Simon Farid, Parastou Forouhar, Randi Heinrichs, Anna Henke, Michi Knecht, knowbotiq, Gertraud Koch, Julien McHardy, Helen Nissenbaum, Gerald Raunig, RYBN.ORG, Daniela Silvestrin, Thorsten Thiel, Transformella, Daniël de Zeeuw, and Nils Zurawski
Edited by Anon Collective (🤫wasn’t me)
Design Dicey Studios
Copy Editing Mellanie Mallon
Translations Steven Corcoran (DE/EN), Toby Cayouette (FR/EN)
Production editor Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei (punctum books)
Publisher punctum books, 2021
The Book of Anonymity is published Open Access with punctum books. A free digital version and the printed book are available from the publisher’s website.