The Impact of Anonymity on Persuasiveness in Online Participation

Wagenknecht, Thomas; Teuber, Timm; Weinhardt, Christof
Proceedings of Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik (MKWI) 2016, Ilmenau
Online participation is a powerful means of in volving citizens, members, and employees in sovereign, organizational, and corporate discussion and decision processes. However, it immanently poses the question how to deal with u ser privacy. Anonymity, on the one hand, offers user protection against repression and can free reticent members. On the other hand, however, it faces the challenge of decreased le vels of social presence and cr edibility as well as the risk of negative dis-inhibition (foul language, hoax). Desi gn alternatives range from full anonymity to full user identification. In this article, we propose a study design to investig ate the effect of user anonymity on communication persuasiveness, based on a set of fictional discussion threads with two opposing parties arguing in favor of their opinion. We systematically vary the degree to which users of both sides appear anonymous or id entifiable. Our conjectures are rooted in the communication literature and build on the concep ts of social presence and user credibility, representing highly relevant design issues for opera tors of online discussion and decision processes.
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