Keio University, Graduate School of Media and Governance
MAUI Project
Ph.D. Dissertation

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ACADEMIC YEAR 2007 (December 12th, 2007)
TITLE The Effect of Anonymity on User Interaction on the Internet

This study proposes the classification of anonymity to enhance practical use of anonymity and pseudonymity on the Internet from a viewpoint of individual users. Anonymity on the Internet has been studied in various fields, however, the definition of anonymity has been fragmented. Though anonymity has been thought to decrease accountability of senders, most users of Consumer Generated Media(CGM) in Japan tend to communicate without disclosing their real names. In this context, anonymity means "visual anonymity", thus sustainable handle and one-time handle have not been distinguished.

To classify anonymity on the Internet, this paper firstly defines anonymity as "the condition of not identified by basic attribute data". Then, reviewing former study in Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) area and information system design field, "traceability" and "linkability" are led as important elements that decide the degree of anonymity.

To verify the framework and explore the effect of anonymity, the author did a case study of mutual-aids about de facto marriage and surnames in Japan, which is minor and irregular lifestyle in the society. Most participants use handle to hide their real name but solve problem through online communication. Comparison of linkable and unlinkable knowledge sharing communication, unlinkable condition holds more question and answer postings, including abused comments. But once evaluated, the result shows no difference between linkable and unlinkable condition.

To test the result and tendency from the case study, choosing more general issue, survey on word-of-mouth of MICRODIET users are designed. Based on the classification of CGM platforms, some of which allow postings without registration; others require e-mail authentication and using pseudonym, this survey showed that the higher anonymous level decreases hesitation to express their opinions. As for receiving information, the higher anonymous platforms are recognized as doubtful source, but once the context is shared, they become trustable source as well.

The result will contribute to design active platform involving hesitating users both in sending and receiving information by setting the level of anonymity.

1. Anonymity 2. Unlinkability 3.Stereotype 4. Online Communication 5.Platform Design

CONTACT To obtain the whole paper, please contact;
ORITA, Akiko ( ako at )

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