lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Cass Sunstein and Eugene Volokh on Information Cocoons in Blogosphere and Elsewhere

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Casewatching United States v. Geoffrey Fieger

Norm Pattis has been covering the Geoffrey Fieger trial in Detroit which, in closing argument, famed trail lawyer Gerry Spence has called his last. From the start to the farewell – well almost, the jury’s still out as of this writing – Pattis has given us a unique look at Spence, familiarizing the legendary. Spence, for the uninitiated is as famous as a trial lawyer gets – his representation of Randy Weaver is haunting. Of his many books, Win Your Case is worth a read if only for how different a trial lawyer can be from how you think he is. If there were awards for blog threads, this would top my nominations.

Anonymity and its Discontents – Anonymists and Eponymists

Why do we blog? Reading Emily Gould’s Exposed and David Lat’s new Project Truman spurred some thoughts this weekend that have been long accumulating on the nature of blogging. I’ll tiptoe around the more obvious freudian explanations for the urge to blog to note that there are two distinct camps of bloggers with very different instincts and motivations in the medium – I’ll call them the Anonymists and the Eponymists.

Eponymists

I am an eponymist. Woefully unable to think of a clever turn of phrase or decent latin maxim for my website, it is self-titled or eponymous and since my URL is my name I, unsurprisingly, blog as myself. I don’t fictionalize or disguise my identity and I choose to speak as and for myself. Consequently, I take responsibility for what I say and therefore try not to say anything on the blog that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Though occasionally sarcastic and intentionally provocative I choose to trust in an intelligent and sophisticated readership that can tell the difference between argument and invective. Raised in a rural backwater where everyone knew everyone else’s business anyway this seemed the most natural thing in the world to me, utterly prosaic and sensible. Many people I know are simply horrified by it. A number of my law school classmates have openly surmised about its potential to undermine my career as if it were only a matter of time. While I could certainly see situations in which blogging would be inappropriate or might cause a potential employer to look elsewhere I am simply undeterred. Anyone who would make their living by words should learn to live by them.

Anonymists

On the other end of the spectrum are Anonymists – who are anonymists because they seek to mask their identities in some way. Most simply don’t reveal their names, using a pseudonym of some sort and taking pains not to reveal any identifiable information such as the city they live in or school attended. Some go so far as to take on an alternate persona, a woman writing as a man, or to openly fictionalize (or claim to) the contents of the blog so as to dislaim any responsibility.

I would argue that the anonymists far outnumber the eponymists in the blogosphere, mostly because the internet makes it possible. There are lots of good reasons to blog anonymously. It enables you to say things that need to be said without the fear of reprisal and it often engenders the kind of frank and open conversation that isn’t entirely common even among close friends. But for that anonymity, the risk of exposure would limit the value of otherwise valuable information. This is of course the same logic that prompts whistle-blower protections.

I raise the distinction merely to say we should recognize and respect which camp we fall into. Some bloggers obviously need to figure out which one they are up front – hint, it’s a one way ratchet – there’s no such thing as anonymizing yourself ex post facto on the internet. On the other hand revealing a previously anonymous identity can be tantalizing and even lucrative (see the anonymous lawyer’s book deal). Having it done for you, on the other hand, is painful and sometimes expensive (see the cautionary tale of Dr. Flea). By our choice we may be at times foregoing rewards or avoiding some risks. Less obvious are the issues of interacting with other people in our lives – I initially thought my girlfriend would appreciate an occasional shout out on the blog – that hasty decision was summarily reversed and remanded. That was a fairly minor incident and easy to remedy but others are less so. In the next few weeks I’ll be building on this idea to see where it takes me.

BlackBerry Orphans

My girlfriend send me this article from the Wall Street Journal – BlackBerry Orphans: The growing use of email gadgets is spawning a generation of resentful children. A look at furtive thumb-typers, the signs of compulsive use and how kids are fighting back and at first it made me really sad. I’VE ABANDONED MY BOY!!!!!!!! Oh wait, I don’t have kids. What a relief. For a second I thought she might be trying to tell me something…. oh… hmmmm…. uh oh.

Confronting my Inner Law Nerd

Law Nerds occupy a peculiar place in nerd taxonomy. We generally retain the capacity for normal conversation and our fixations on particular theories of judicial interpretation are easily mistaken for the same types of political positions that the normals have.

We can thus avoid detection for long periods of time until our condition is at some point abruptly revealed when we forget ourselves in moments of agitation or excitement. For instance, I once witnessed a recent Chicago law grad who revealed his law-nerdness to a group of frightened acquaintances in a bar when he went berserk at the mention the ‘post office’. Not everyone who mails a letter recognizes their tacit support for an evil monopoly actively undermining fabric of our society.

Such a moment came for me not too long ago, when in my excitement about a certain blawg-igarch teaching at Houston next semester, I forgot who I was talking to. “So you look like look you’re about to pee your pants because there’s this law teacher who’s coming and you like, read his website where he talks about law stuff?” Um… well… not so pathetic sounding as such, but yes, yes, that’s about right. I won’t reveal the identity of said prof until after I register for classes lest I kill my chances for getting in, but more later.

I suppose admission is the first step to recovery

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