Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Library & Information Science


Pamela J. McKenzie


What we have witnessed in the last decade in the context of social upheaval, social activism, and resulting social movements is testament to the need for a re-evaluation of what constitutes community in a networked world, and what role the individual subject plays within social networks, systems of social, corporate, and state control, and networks of resistance. New processes of subjectivation are emerging and rather than being grounded in identity, sociality is being reconfigured, and it is in this process that this dissertation focusses on anonymity as a means of working through these new configurations. This integrated article dissertation explores the concept of anonymity and emerging practices of community in three chapters. The first examines anonymity in the context of civil liberties through a critique of privacy. By analyzing legal, social, and cultural understandings of privacy, this chapter problemmatizes the privacy defence against excessive tracking and monitoring of speech and behaviour, and suggests ways of incorporating anonymous practices in order to discover more robust methods of collectively empowering ourselves in the digital environment. The second chapter explores anonymity as a political process that can be illustrated in the cases of Wikileaks, Anonymous, and Occupy, presenting the various ways in which anonymity is mobilized in information activism as a resource for political action. We can see a common thread running through the variety of methods of dissent employed by the above mentioned groups. This commonality centres on the way anonymity figures (sometimes subtly, other times prominently) in identity formation, subjectivity, trust, revolt, authority, connection and communication. This thesis is an exploration of the role of anonymity at the intersection of these functions of community. The third chapter traces contemporary theoretical explorations of radical community through the work of Jean-Luc Nancy, Roberto Esposito, and Giorgio Agamben, and identifies characteristics of anonymity in strategies of being-in-common.