So I was just thinking about something. People who teach writing tell me that they get to know each student’s voice with time and can easily detect if someone has helped a student or if they have copied or such.
Then I remembered the exercise/activity we did once in ccourses where we tried to blog in someone else’s style…which means we read each other’s blogs often enough to recognize a “style”. Some people have really distinctive styles, others less so. When you co-author with someone you also learn a lot about their style and sometimes some parts of an article have different voice. Sometimes not.
Anyway so here’s an interesting situation. You conduct a (semi) anonymous survey with open-ended questions. I say “semi” coz I always offer people the opportunity to say who they are if they want to be quoted by name. I think it’s both respectful of the person (they get to own their own words) and also allows me to follow up and clarify if needed. And yeah i do social research coz i am curious so i also just like to know who said what and stuff 🙂
But so I was reading through a survey response today before reading the last question that identifies the person. And I found myself guessing who it might be based on the actual sentiments and the writing style of the person. I actually guessed wrongly, but I guessed “close” (this won’t make sense to anyone but me – so ignore it if it throws you off).
But my point is this:
A. If someone follows your writing, if you write as frequently as I do, can a survey response of mine be truly anonymous to a researcher who knows me? One who knows my writing style AND my views on many things? (of course i answer lots of surveys for ppl who don’t know me at all…)
B. If someone sees an anonymous quote presented, could someone guess who is being quoted if they know them and their writing?
This guessing of course was possible way before the internet but i think the internet, particularly social media and forms of public expression make us more connected to or familiar with other people’s writing styles.
And so am wondering how this affects anonymity in research for people who are so digitally out there…