It’s not every day you see Louis Althusser and Edmund Husserl sitting next to Brian Kernigham and Guido van Rossum (via Me-Fi). It’s funny what difference a face makes. When I started using a blog in my classes in 2000, I had posters include thumbnails of their faces in the messages. I wanted to connect the online discussion with the RL discussion. It tended to reduce flaming. After a culture was established for the course, many altered their images in clever ways, but it provided a kind of grounding.
Academics have headshots. I don’t like any of mine, but that’s life. They have headshots, often, because they are taken as part of publicizing a talk or for the leaf of a book they have written. Increasinly, as people micropublish, they use the headshot as a kind of reality check. A comparison of those with and without headshots on one of the friendster-esque social networking sites would, I suspect, reveal that those with “real” images of themselves are more likely to have more online connections.
So what if you want to use a pseudonym? Someone [lazyweb] needs to put up a store of generated anonymous faces, built randomly from pieces of some large set of originals, that individuals can register as their own. You know, for times that you certainly don’t want to use someone else’s face, but you don’t want to use your own.