Friday, July 27, 2007

Dear Tony,

The nexus of the Internet and the media sure must be confusing for some. First off, let me disclose that I am not 'evergrey' nor any associate thereof. Evergrey being a registered commenter on a forum site Skyscraper page. I do live in Bloomfield, and this being Pittsburgh the two degrees of separation rule does apply. I would only guess there is some connection out there. I would not be surprised if I have run into this person in some semi-professional sense, or buying buffalo mozzarella at Donatelli's...

With that said, in his Post Gazette column today Tony Norman was concerned that people will confuse him for Evergrey. Why? Evergrey is (or actually was since I think it has already been changed) using Tony's PG mugshot on his Internet profile. First off,that image is called an avatar. We should probably look at the definition of avatar as icon, which should begin to tell you that it is not meant to be a literal representation of anybody. Maybe we should look at the formal definition of avatar. Evergrey may be saying he (or she for all I know) thinks Tony is some form of minor Hindu Deity.

I am pretty sure no regular reader of internet news/commentary/blogs/forums of any kind thought for a second that Tony Norman is this person. Really. If someone thought that, do they also think the people who regularly use Dick Cheney's picture as avatars are the idle musings of the Vice President? If someone wanted to purport to be Tony Norman, would they not use Tony's name explicitly. Using the public picture of a meta-public figure is a matter of expression that reinforces that the commenter is NOT said person. Maybe we could go about discerning the identity of our virtual colleague the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat by sniffing around the City-County Building to see who smells of a three martini lunch between snarls? I bet not.

In fact, Tony not only acknowledges the obvious by the end of his column, but he comes to that conclusion after the briefest research into what is being said on the Internet. Nonetheless I fear the damage has been done. The problem is the the Internet's reach is expanding and people who pop in do not understand a lot of basic mores which lead to this type of confusion. Not that I believe Tony was even briefly concerned about the alleged identity theft, this is all just useful fodder for a slow summer column. Nonetheless, I bet the average PG reader will only take away from Tony's column the idea that this Internet thing is just fad amongst a bunch of teenage hackers.

But to be fair Tony is not alone, although he does have a more public forum than most to express his confoundedness. So while we are at it... lets deal with other Internet misunderstandings. Something for the occasional, and disconcerting, letter I actually do get: No, I am also not the persona otherwise known as The Admiral, whose avatar is the esoteric choice of the the late Admiral Richmond K. Turner. I ruled out the Admiral actually being Richmond Turner because... well... Admiral Turner has long since passed away. The Admiral has his (again assuming it's a him) own blog over at The People's Republic of Pittsburgh. As with Tony and Evergrey, I am pretty sure no regular reader of the Burghospehere would conflate us given the diametric content of our writings...... but again the two degrees of separation rule can't be ignored. The probability of two people in Pittsburgh with an interest in American naval history being active bloggers in the Burgh is a fairly low probability event. But after checking with my alter ego, and also ruling out Don Goldstein (who does not blog as far as I know), I concluded it was not a zero probability event.

and speaking of the Navy a bit. Recently I commented on the possible investment of a Kazakhstan company in our local Westinghouse. I joked in that post that I would consider being the honorary Kazakh counsel in town here. That was a joke somewhat lost on this blogger/commenter on the nuclear industry who described me as "looking for a business deal". So to my good friends in the NCIS: NO, I am not seeking to become an agent of a foreign potentate. It was a joke, a phrase, a figure of speech, a sentiment expressed for effect if you will. Please do not add me to those lists of people you screen 18 times at the airport.

And with that, I am now guilty of what I was really going to critique Tony for, ignoring a whole lot more important fodder that needs commentary instead of this brief foray into the virtual world.

3 Comments:

Blogger EdHeath said...

As you may know, the blogger Admiral Richmond etc has moved over the Burgh Report, for what it is worth. Which begs the question, what of his previous blog’s excellent name. Actually, I think an even better blog name would be The People’s Democratic Republic of Pittsburgh, since, as with the PRC, we are a one party governmental unit.

I’ve had an interesting experience of late with internet images. My picture of The Right Honorable Sir Edward Heath, former prime minister of the UK, disappeared one day a few weeks ago. I went looking and found it in the same Wikipedia article, I guess with some subtle change in the link. Then recently it disappeared again, moved to an entirely different Wikipedia article. I have no idea if somehow I am involved in this shuffling, but I think I need a much stronger acknowledgement of copyright and my claim for fair use on my blogsite. I suppose I could use just put a picture of myself up there, or park a picture of Ted on my internet ISP, where the Wikipedia might never notice it. I sort of want to give the fair use thing a try, since I’m *not* making any money on this, and I am doubting there is a big market in pictures of conservative English prime ministers that is hurt by my use of the image. If I put a picture of myself up, do I need to worry some body will claim it as an avatar?

Friday, July 27, 2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I dunno.... Mike M. is the IP guru.. but there must be a public picture of Sir Ed that can be used freely.

but this has got me thinking... I don't know about either Sir Ed or Tony... but there must be more than a few questionable copyright avatars floating through Second Life I imagine.

Friday, July 27, 2007 4:25:00 PM  
Blogger O said...

No, I smell of roses, sunshine, and bourbon. Judges smell of martinis.

Ed: try getting another image host; sounds like wikipedia is preventing hotlinking.

Friday, July 27, 2007 7:18:00 PM  

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