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The organization of a MOO world


Roughly there are several levels on which users can participate in various ways.

  1. The ``theme level'' or ``purpose level'' of the MOO.
  2. The infrastructure level

  3. The social level: What manners are encouraged or/and allowed

The most important question to start with when designing a MOO is maybe not so much ``who should rule?'', but ``what should be ruled and how?''. One aspect of ruling is therefore devoted to building rules that participants should observe, an other is enforcing them and only a third is about ``governing''.

MUDs are a sort of microcosm that can be related to larger societial bodies such as ``states'' as well as to electronic artefacts such as the Internet. Many questions asked there can be asked here. Chip Morningstar (Lucasfilm Ltd.'s Habitat project manager) in a talk on the electronic frontier related the creation of both the ``Net'' and his habitat world to the creation of a nation:

``I hear a lot of the rhetoric associated with electronic media speaking in terms of "creating a new world." My experiences lead me to believe that this is a poor choice of metaphors. Instead, I would prefer to speak of "settling a new world." Although the electronic environment is, to be sure, the creation of people, it is not the creation of any single person or group. While each part of it is designed and organized by somebody, the totality is not. It is, in Hayek's words, "the product of human action but not of human design." The metaphor of creation implies a creator, which leads you to the constructivist view I described earlier. The metaphor of settlement implies a diversity of actors, some individuals, some groups, some large organizations, each with its own aims and its own local knowledge. As the settlements grow, their boundaries brush up against one another. The various participants encounter each other and interact, and evolve conventions for getting along together peaceably.

Consider the settlement of North America by Europeans and the growth of our nation. Nobody "created" or "designed" the United States of America in the sense that we now know it. It was formed in a piecemeal fashion and evolved the complex structure we see today as it grew. This growth did not, however, take place in a vacuum. The various settlers drew on a variety of intellectual, legal and cultural traditions in the formation of their new nation. This, of course, is the non- constructivist model. It is also, I believe, a better model for the actual way the Net has grown up until now.'' [Morningstar, 1991, lines: 267ff.,]

Morningstar's ``constructivist'' and ``non-constructivist'' gif categories are interesting, but we relabel them in order to avoid confusion with the well known psychological terms:

  1. The Constructionist view (Morningstar's ``constructivist'') claims that cyberspace worlds can be built according to new rules
  2. The ``Grounded in Real Life View'' (Morningstar's ``non-constructivist'') claims that such worlds are simple extensions of other organizations or more generally the body of social knowledge the participants bring along.

While those fundamental stances can be debated in length, a few related basic questions are important for this section, such as: What should grow more or less unplanned in a MOO ? What can and should be planned ? In what world do we let inital users ``let loose'' ? On what tradition should we build ? Do we need to write down a constitution like the nation states did in the last century ?. More such questions can be asked and not all get the same answer for all kinds of MOOs. However, one single practical theme can be abstracted for MOOs like the TECFAMOO and that is:

A MOO needs a good ``constitution'':

Some sort of stability and openness are not the only issues, a ``serious MOO'' is not really a closed world, it's got be efficient as tool in the same way other artefacts like ``real life'' conferences and workshops including ``life around those events'' are.

next up previous contents
Next: The role of player Up: Rulingrules and other Previous: Rulingrules and other

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