From Gender and Tech Resources

There are many reasons for us for consciously creating multiple, fake, anonymous or pseudonymous identities online (without becoming the petty tyrants we fight):

  • Engaging in the present with no need for past or future references.
  • Being who you are naturally and freeing your speech.
  • Dreaming another you into being for gaming, hobbies, (online) roleplay, trolling the trolls, defense from mass surveillance, confusing surveillance, etc. in a way that it doesn’t automatically become a part of your finger- and footprint.
  • Being more resilient online.
  • Increased individuality, autonomy and freedom by separating professional and private information.
  • Exploring abandonment of being, and gaining recognition on how your "usual identity" can be a trap.
  • Challenging yourself and engaging at the edge.
  • Feeding (r)evolution and self-authority.

This page focuses on roleplay for teh lulz. Love it or hate it, the Anonymous mask has morphed under many guises. Starting life as the face of an audacious revolutionary, it became a trickster political disguise turned corporate nightmare. According to some, it’s future as a potent image remains in the balance, but the story is still ongoing. [1]

Because I am here.

Choose an avatar

  • Don’t start your character off with a name or a physical description. All of us have a lot of preconceived ideas about names and body types. If you start off with a name or physical appearance, the character is likely to automatically going to carry along a lot of baggage that you probably aren’t even going to be aware of.
  • First explore (if possible). Become comfortable with the context a character is for if you have time to do so. Each context has it's own "flavour" and part of having fun with your character is knowing what is and what isn't possible within a particular (set of) context(s). The context can also be a source of inspiration for picking your character.
  • Develop your character by a problem, a dramatic need, a compulsion. What does the character want? What to avoid? Ask yourself what you want to do with the role. For example, if you are going to elicit in your role your energy must match the role you are going to play. If your personality or mental makeup doesn’t enable you to easily play a particular role then don’t try.
  • If a character is meant for in a simulation game, ask around. Give those elicitation skills a whirl with the other players. Find out what roles others are interested in playing. Having a diversity of skills and characters in the game is key to having a great time. So ask around, find out what others are interested in playing. Do not choose a character you feel uncomfortable with. Not even if it is "missing". And great if you challenge yourself. Not so great if it stresses you out unnecessarily.
  • Don’t rely on crutches. Do not give your character a hook (some little device that characterizes the person like a twitch), yet. Do that when you refine the character.
  • Empathise with your character, but do not sympathise. Set up for roleplaying things you know. When you roleplay a villain, you have to be that villain. You have to understand why the villain acts. Empathy in those moments can be an agony but you can’t let empathy turn into sympathy and tempt you to let the villain take the easy way out of situations. Look into your own darker parts to deliver a credible villainous character.
  • Take time to experiment.

Give your avatar a story

An increasing number of psychologists argue that people living in modern societies give meaning to their lives by constructing and internalising self-defining stories.

Whatever, the practice of "story telling for identity" seems much older to me and starting a new avatar with a story makes it a lot easier to maintain the role. You can make up your own story, use a "known" person’s story (for example place a historical story in contemporary settings), or add the storyline of a god or goddess (placing a story in another context than where the story originated can be quite fun), a "group identity" like anonymous (which isn't a group), ...

Refine character

  • Create name and appearance of your character.
  • Build a profile for (each of) your character(s). Use whatever you can find on character development for missing elements.
  • Add some emoting. Emoting goes far beyond /smile, /flirt and /bashful
  • Regularly revisit profile and scenarios to refine character(s) further.
  • Be prepared to let your character(s) and their responses surprise you; that's when you know you're getting somewhere. :D

Freedom of speech

If role playing online for "freedom of speech" your adversaries are, besides the usual surveillance and censorship actors, technocrats of all kinds (see biometrics).

Artwork and speech analysis

Some artworks reveal something you didn’t know before. They cast light on hitherto unknown facts that move you profoundly upon learning. This is a particularly successful art experience, one you part with an anxious, perhaps even nervous, sense of awareness. And what I learned, on a very cold London morning last January at The Showroom, after listening to Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s ‘The Freedom of Speech Itself’ [2] is that for the past two decades a methodology called forensic speech analysis has been used by several border agencies throughout the West as a means to determine the national identities and geopolitical origins of suspicious prospective immigrants or political refugees. On a practical level that means that asylum seekers might be denied access to safer ground on the basis of their accents or pronunciation of certain vowels, according to the field’s expert phonetic atlas [3]:

Ours is a world where half of its population enjoys a globe trotting existence and the other half is subjected to wars, geopolitical conflicts and the nomadic implications of flight. In an increasingly deterritorialised geographical context where hybrid identities are rife and the formerly pure categories are in the throes of extinction, how can a legal verdict be based on an accent, quite possibly the most porous and unstable human trait? What this artwork exposes is decision making at its most impersonal, cunningly revealing the absurd nature of bureaucracy and how technology might sometimes simplify matters technically while complicating them morally. Could this work be suggesting that perhaps it is time we examine the moral debris expelled by those machines more closely?

Storytelling and author identification

As more of our communication is written, the linguistic fingerprints we leave provide enticing clues for investigators, contributing to the small but influential and growing field of forensic linguistics and its controversial sub-specialty, author identification.

To see some of your linguistic fingerprint, you can use The Java Graphical Authorship Attribution Program, a free download available for anyone to play around with and released under the AGPL v3 — to extract the hundred most frequent words across an author’s or blogger's vocabulary. This step eliminates rare words, character names and plot points, giving words like and, of and but, ranked by usage. Those words might seem inconsequential, but they leave an authorial fingerprint on any word.

Whatever you find are clues, not incontrovertible evidence. The beginnings of forensic linguistics may be ancient, but this kind of analysis is on the rise. Limiting factors have always been time and energy but with e-books and blogs readily available, almost any author can be quickly analysed.

Too bad for authors and bloggers looking for the liberation brought by a pseudonym, unless using some replacement scheme of some of the words (configure your auto-correct application) as part of creating a credible persona. And that may not be enough, depending.

Chaski believes the key lies not in scanning texts — whether by eye or machine — for superficial idiosyncrasies, but in surfacing the syntactic structures linguists study [4]. She does not reveal exactly how her method works but claims she has reached accuracy rates of about 95 percent from computational analysis of "constituent structures," the usually subconscious ways people group phrases within a sentence. Some people, she explains, produce complex noun phrases and simple verb phrases; others produce complex adverbial phrases, and so on. By focusing not just on the parts of speech but on how those parts of speech are used, her analysis seems to get away from a dependence on words and spelling.

If our language is indeed as distinctive as our DNA, we haven’t yet decoded it. That leaves a piece of punctuation looming over the life stories of people convicted based (at least in part) on clues found in their written words. And it’s a large question mark, just like some of the already accepted and widely used forms of biometrics in forensics and in court rooms.

Plausible deniability

According to the urban dictionary "plausible deniability" is a condition in which a subject can safely and believeably deny knowledge of any particular truth that may exist because the subject is deliberately made unaware of said truth so as to benefit or shield the subject from any responsibility associated through the knowledge of such truth. More on its legalisation in the US in Surveillance legalities.

Adding plausible deniability patterns to a role or simulation can be useful, as surveillance systems can correlate all kinds of information yet cannot interpret non-information (best if humans not try so often either because the abyss can stare back :D) nor can bayesian logic deal with the difference between excellence in roleplay and ignorance. See Confusing surveillance systems for more on that. Adding plausible deniability elements in a simulation can lead to discussions about exceptionalism and the difference between "lawful" and "legal".

See plausible deniability applied in:

  • networking - relaying certain types of broadcasts automatically in such a way that the original transmitter of a file is indistinguishable from those who are merely relaying it allows for the person who first transmitted the file to claim that his computer had merely relayed it from elsewhere, and this claim cannot be disproven without a complete decrypted log of all network connections to and from that person's computer. The freenet file sharing network and censorship workarounds such as tor obfuscate data sources and flows to protect operators and users of the network by preventing them (and by extension, observers such as censors) from knowing where data comes from and where it is stored. See Anonymising your traffic with linux.
  • deniable disk encryption - using steganographic techniques where the very existence of an encrypted file or message is deniable in the sense that an adversary cannot prove that an encrypted message exists.

Simulation games

Games and simulations can be powerful tools for exposing the nature of problems and exploring scenario planning paths, and can even be a structured approach to instruction, not necessarily excluding each other.

The advantages gaming and simulations offer over traditional "teaching" are:

Some simulations and plays can be done individually, others are a group activity where players cooperate or compete, some are run to explore in what ways we can get to a desired state, some to observe the effects of start and boundary condition changes, some rules are explicit, others are implicit and to be discovered. Debriefing or retrospectives after play is a usual and valuable component, particularly if it's an educational game/simulation. For this reason many multi-purpose simulations include observer roles.

When a scenario is added to a game, it becomes a simulation. For an example of that see scenario planning simulation in The Alpha Complex.


Social engineering

Character development

Linguistic forensics

Author identification


Linguistic hacking

Plausible deniability

Perceptual control theory



  1. A History of the Anonymous Mask: A 10-step guide to the turbulent past of the Anonymous mask
  2. Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  3. ‘The Freedom of Speech Itself’, or the betrayal of the voice
  4. Empirical evaluations of language-based author identification techniques