The anonymous online self: toward an understanding of the tension between discipline and online anonymity

Ken H. Guo, Xiaoxiao Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We aim to have a nuanced understanding of the seemingly antithetical tension between discipline and anonymity in online settings. Using a rich set of qualitative data from a real-life online forum, we find that anonymity does not necessarily eliminate discipline. Three forms of discursive discipline appear under conditions of anonymity: technological discipline, peer discipline, and self-discipline. Thus, the online forum may be seen as an omniopticon in which the anonymous online self is monitored and disciplined in multiple ways. Information technology both enables and constrains how individuals balance the competing needs of anonymity and discipline. We suggest new ways of looking at the literature on discipline and anonymity in online environments and at the role played by technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-69
Number of pages22
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • anonymity
  • anonymous online self
  • discipline
  • omniopticon
  • power

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