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Better than real?


There are claims that in some aspects life on the MOO is better than in the real world. Young makes a very general claim in this direction:

``So what KINDS OF EXCHANGES happen in this new medium? Because of the both distanced and direct nature of MUD interaction, players are more socially confident than in face-to-face situations: MORE INPUT IS OFFERED, input IS MORE FREELY OPINIONATED, and there is LESS PRESSURE FOR PARTICIPANTS TO CONFORM TO NORMS.

The surprising trend that people are more friendly, emotional, and expressive in this decentered medium highlights deep inadequacies and disintegration in present real-world societies. The promise of Computer Socializing is that, should MUD become more widespread, it could become an important SUPPLEMENT TO REAL LIFE. If this new communication medium, one that merges literary and oral strengths, is in fact closer to human thought, and represents a MORE GENUINE FORM OF EXPRESSION, perhaps cyberspace will be the choice location to meet and develop relationships with real-world others. And perhaps our real world will gradually be shaped by tendencies of the Net, just as telephone and television technologies have influenced our view of ourselves and our surroundings.'' [Young, 1994, lines 70ff.,].

Young's claim is probably somewhat too strong. He should not forget that each MOO tries to force a certain style on its participants (and that it has the means to do so, see for example chapter 9 for more, e.g. the section on manners [9.3].

However, MOOs can certainly play a wonderful rule to bring disabled people in touch with the world. A good example are blinds. With the help of specialized terminals and/or speech syntheziers they can interact in the same way as any other participant. DU has made this an important issue:

``In future editions you will read how DU and other MUDs are being redesigned in sometimes apparently invisible ways to better serve people with disabilities and by people you might never expect. You will be touched as I was by Samantha's article "How I lost 20 pounds on the New MOO Diet", an account of how the ability of the MUD environment to provide accomodation had a vital impact on the physical life of a person. Dr. Zenhausern's article in this issue sheds considerable light on a disability that many of use who swear by computers may even have and not realize. Computers can be used as assistive devices in more ways than most of us realize.'' [McWhorter, 1994, 3,].

Samantha Scolamiero([Scolamiero, 1994]) shows with her own experience that her activity on a MOO did not just gave her access to a better virtual world, but that this contact had strong therapeutic effects: A few quotes are an indicator of the progression detailed in this article.

``Cyberspace empowers the disABLED. Those who cannot, CAN in cyberspace. Someone with cognitive overload can maintain an active social life because they can control their environment. A person who must always rely on a wheelchair in real life can run and jump and play at the MOO, just like everyone else. A person whose hearing is impaired can now "listen" to a group conversation in room full of talkative people. Can you imagine the impact these newfound freedoms have on people's perception of themselves and ultimately upon their lives???'' ([Scolamiero, 1994, 43,])

``Diversity University gave me my personality back. I can exercise the REAL me who is unfortunately trapped by a brain that doesn't work like it used to. It gave me back real life capabilities. I can run around the campus meeting every one, talking and socializing, like the maniac that I am, but in silence. It is the social environment I desperately needed that is not physically debilitating or painful.'' ([Scolamiero, 1994, 43,])

``Using the MOO technology I saw my productivity increase. I saw the differences between trying to manage in real life and managing better with computer assistance. This realization gave me the confidence to try other "assistive" technology. I finally broke down and got a walking stick. (Don't call it a cane or I will bop you with it.) Now I can walk longer distances and therefore I get more exercise. THAT is how I lost 20 pounds on "The New MOO Diet." :-)'' ([Scolamiero, 1994, 43,])

Heather J. Kelley argues, that despite many cultural and technical limitations, MOOs could become a vector for social services:

``MOOs are real-time, incorporating a sense of spatiality and an attendant privacy, as such they are ideally suited to facilitate close personal interactions between physically remote participants. Concurrently, the anonymity of M*s encourages lowered social inhibitions to some degree, enabling users to divulge information about themselves that they might otherwise be uncomfortable reporting. Given this quality, MOOs are particularly appropriate to distance counseling or therapy, and might be appropriate for remotely situated 12-step participants or homebound senior citizens.'' ([Kelley, 1994]).

As Kelley points out, in this case a MUD has be be made secure for people seeking help and she cites an incident on JennyMUSH, a MUD dedicated to the counseling of sexual trauma victims. ``My point then is that, while MOOs tend to encourage social freedom of a positive kind, in absence of fear of rejection, it also encourages emotional behaviors of a different sort, in absence of constraints to prevent abuse'' ([Kelley, 1994]). Despite those and other questions she raises, the authors concludes here paper with the following paragraph:

``While remaining conscious and cautious, I believe that M*s provide a special kind of interaction unavailable elsewhere from which certain varieties of (underfunded) service organizations could benefit to degree disproportionate to the low cost of participating. While I realize the inability of MOO and Unix code to serve every disadvantaged individual, I see potential for the presence of real-time textual worlds to assist the purposes of social service organizations. The grassroots, home built nature of both Unix and MOOcode leave space for wider, more diverse participation in the virtual community even while the culturally specific origins of the two media suggest otherwise. ASCII, Unix, and MOOcode are not digital blank slates, but their particular characteristics can provide foundational material for organized social change to be enacted by individuals separated by great distances. Most importantly, the real-time virtual presence of physically distant human beings, which only M*s can easily and convincingly provide, can create impetus for oppositional methodologies of on-line activity to develop and come to fruition. Only through direct and multiple person-to-person interactions can the dominant culture's unidirectional ideal of 'information' be abandoned for the challenging but far more equitable "decentralized community of understanding." ''

next up previous contents
Next: Constraint by the MOO Up: New ways of thought Previous: New ways of thought

Daniel K. Schneider
vendredi, 16 février 1996, 13:41:58 MET