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Should "serious" MOOs allow anonymity ?


At TECFAMOO we probably will take the option of making available a persons e-mail address. This insures in the owners opinion accountability of users acts and more importantly it reduces the amount of monitoring needed.

A different stance can be taken as shown by a message posted by Richelieu on *MOOteach@DU (21 and 24, Jan 14 94):


To tell the truth, I don't really like the idea of a student player
class at all (except maybe for young students), and I really don't
like the idea that teachers should have absolute control over what
their students can and can't do here.  This place isn't just a
teaching environment, it should be a learning environment too, and the
more you restrict what a student can do, the less likely they are to
want to learn what you're trying to teach them, and the less able they
are to learn anything else.

This is a brave new world, and I find it really distressing that
people seem to be falling back into RL preconceptions and ideas about
control.  Having lived in MOOs for a long time now, I've found that
even the more unruly people can usually be dealt with in much more
effectively if not simply grouped into one big category of
"troublemakers" and locked in shackles.  And I also don't believe the
point of Diversity University should not be to allow a captive
audience for someone because they can't control their students in RL.

Now, I do believe that some things are good ideas.  There should be
the ability for a teacher to make their classroom page-proof, and
prevent similar disruptive influences from outside, and to be able to
identify anyone they are responsible for (this does not necessarily
mean all their students.  By responsibility I mean primarily all
characters with a group RL email account, since registered email
addresses are the primary form of responsibility enforceable by the
wizards).  It must also, of course, be possible for a teacher to
ensure that they're dealing with who they think they're dealing with
when it comes to grades and such.

Beyond this, I am strongly in favor of anonymity for anyone who
desires it (please keep in mind that the wizards always have access to
the information, and if there are problems, they are the ones who
should be handling it anyway, so irresponsibility is not an issue
here).  The ability to be anonymous often results in people who are
more likely to try new things, voice their opinions, ask questions,
and generally experiment, particularly in the areas of social
interaction, ideological preconceptions, psychological issues, and
other things that they wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable dealing
with in a RL environment, and I don't think that we should be so
limited in our goals as to ignore this as a valuable potential part of
D.U.s environment.  I speak from experience in this respect, not only
regarding others I have known but regarding myself as well.

Moreover, lack of anonymity has a significant effect on how people
perceive this virtual space that they're in.  If user information is
available, people inevitably use it, and this place simply becomes a
bunch of people with masks on, not real at all.  With anonymity comes
a much more real social structure and a feeling that one is part of
something that isn't simply a game or a computer program somewhere,
but a real society, which often leads to a very real sense of
belonging (often, in the case of people who are normally
troublemakers, for people who otherwise don't feel that they belong
very much of anywhere), and a feeling of social responsibility to
_their_ society.

While it is inevitably true that we will get our share of
troublemakers and problem people, this will, for the most part, be
unaffected by whether people are anonymous or not, and the treatment
of real problem people will not be significantly improved by lack of
anonymity anyway.  I strongly believe that the ability of the
individual to choose can not only significantly improve the academic
atmosphere, but can lead to a better understanding of this new
environment, and a much more mature attitude towards the MOO and the
people in it.


[...] my point comes down to this: I have been in places that have
complete anonymity and places that have very little.  I have found
almost exclusively that the places with anonymity are more
interesting, have more discussion on a wider range of issues, and have
a wider range of people and experiences available.  It is my belief
that this is the type of place that Diversity University should be,
and it is my belief that a lack of anonymity is an unnecessary measure
that would only serve to hinder this.


In some cases anonymity has clear advantages. Like ceejay notes on *MOOteach@DU (27, Jan 14 94) there are cases where anonymity is necessary or an advantage:


an example might be a group of students for a class on human sexuality.  in
an ideal society i should be able to walk into this class and say that i
am bisexual without having to worry about the other students.  however,
i have been in classes where i was told that bisexuals were untrustworthy.
i could not reveal my sexuality in this class without having my opinions
of everything else colored by it.

another argument for anonymity would be so that another student is not
prejudiced by what obvious characteristics make up who i am.  for example
on a mud i can play a male or female character, or a character with no
gender that corresponds to genders in real life.  like it or not, there 
is a great deal of stereotyping by gender in life.  my field experience 
instructor appears to believe that females decide to stop liking math 
in junior high because they (the students) don't think it will make
them appear feminine enough.  in my women's studies class, it was 
believed that men could not discuss the topic because they just couldn't


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