muds and moos

I’m not much of a gamer. In fact, game talk is equivalent to a foreign language for me, so when I was informed I would be playing an online game for homework, I wasn’t too happy. When I found out it was a virtual reality program in which multiple players were connected at the same time, I was kind of worried for the safety of my virtual character.

While exploring the LambdaMOO community I felt like I was constantly in some sort of maze, searching for my way out, almost like a bad dream. I kept trying to see how far I could go and hoped I would make it to Paris (since I heard someone say that’s where they were in class). After 45 minutes I found myself in a Chinese-like area trapped in a cave (needless to say, I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower).

I didn’t like the lack of actual visuals, I felt limited in movement, and I wish I didn’t have to read directions in order to get anywhere. I especially didn’t like that I did not feel a part of the community; I felt like an outsider who was a complete stranger to this multi-dimensional world. I even felt as though they made it purposefully difficult to navigate within the dimensional world alone, forcing interaction among community members.

The house seemed to be the main area of social interaction but since results from Diane Schiano’s article, Lessons from LambdaMOO: A Social, Text-based Virtual Environment, detailed that MOOers spent most of their time within the home, I wanted to make sure I got out of there as soon as I made a friend (results from Schiano’s article also showed that most social groups consisted of two characters).

After a dip in the pool, I soaked up the house, moving my character into every direction of the mansion. I hoped to be social with MOOers within the living room but was immediately grossed out when one of the living room MOOers informed everyone he/she was masturbating. I quickly made my way out the door, friendless.

During my time within the rest of the community I tried to keep my sense of identity by following directions I would be comfortable making in real life but I freaked out each time I found myself somewhere creepy, like a graveyard and a barn with doll heads. Honestly, once I made it to the graveyard I wished I was back within the swimming pool being social, instead of out in the world on my own. I especially wished I wasn’t on my own when I was trapped in the cave, because I have a feeling having a friend would have helped prolong my online life past the cave.

I explored LambdaMOO before I read Julian Dibbell’s, A Rape in Cyberspace, because I was worried it would deter me from interacting with others (I didn’t want anything bad to happen to me). After reading the article I was glad I waited to read it but I also felt as though I’d be perfectly okay with never exploring LambdaMOO ever again.

It might have to do with my lack of interest in the world of game, but my feelings toward the identity aspect of virtual reality are now mostly negative, while my feelings toward the social aspect of virtual reality are somewhat positive. The ability to create a life within a virtual realm is possible, I’ve heard of SIMS, and to do it all text-based seems impressive, but to cause havoc and violate MOOers against their will is sick and scary.

It’s weird to think how people create new identities for social MUDs and do things they normally wouldn’t. It completely goes against the need to be ourselves, as Douglas Rushkoff points out in his chapter on identity. Being in a virtual world is the same as being on a social media site, both forms of digital fall under the umbrella of life with technology. There seems to be a life of anonymity within LambdaMOO that MOOers enjoy taking advantage of. It’s as if users want to live another life within the MUD, pushing the limits of the virtual world that they normally wouldn’t push in the real world.

read about MOOers having relationships on LambdaMOO and even some getting married

Although there is a lack of authenticity within LambdaMOO, when it comes to the social aspect, I will admit I did like the lack of advertisement. I’m used to social media sites throwing consumer ads my way, so it was refreshing to go about something online without an ad being forced upon me. The program allowed for social contact to take place without outside interruption, which Rushkoff points out in his chapter on social, to be the main purpose of a social network.

What were your feelings toward LambdaMOO?

How does Rushkoff’s chapter on identity relate to your experience exploring LambdaMOO? How does his chapter on social relate to your experience exploring LambdaMOO?

tweet tweet tweet

Last summer I had this grand idea that I would join the world of Twitter because there was still so much buzz about it, I felt like I was the only person in the entire world who didn’t tweet, and because of the benefits listed in this article. I created an account and composed creative tweets every now and then and kind of enjoyed it. I found it especially useful to gain newsworthy information from @chicagotribune and @nyimes without reading the newspapers, it was sort of, as Douglas Rushkoff explains, “Reading as a process of elimination rather than deep engagement.” (This worked for a while until my professor handed out a current events news quiz and asked for detailed news descriptions. Needless to say, since I was not reading just looking at what there was to read, I didn’t so well on that quiz) My usage went from lurking, to simply stalking the lead singer of my favorite band, to completely lacking the desire to update followers of my thoughts. I deleted it after a couple of months and thought I’d never go back.

I thought wrong.

I created a new account for my #comm200 class and I have to admit, I feel quite weird about having it up and I don’t plan on keeping it up for very long. I’ve been trying to take advantage of it and compose tweets but I guess maybe I’m not fit for the Twitter world.

To me tweeting is equivalent to shouting out into a massive crowd. It’s like saying, “This is what is on my mind and I think everyone should know #imawesome,” with a link and extra hashtags inserted somewhere in between. Someone might think it is truly awesome and might even benefit highly from the composed thought but the truth is, most people don’t care what you have to say.

In the Future of Social Media: Is a Tweet the New Size of a Thought?, Julian Dibbell explains the reasons for Twitter use aren’t known. Personally I believe it is an easy way to keep in contact with family, friends, and celebrities, but I already have a Facebook for that, so why do I need a Twitter?

Maybe it’s because I have never really had the average Twitter experience that I feel this way, but I don’t see it being much different from Facebook or other social media sites; either way it’s the uploading/publishing/composing of what interests us and those who share the interest engage while those who don’t share the interest tend to ignore.

While composing a thick tweet I felt a mix of embarrassment and unease. Embarrassment that my thoughts wouldn’t be hidden, rather shown to a class full of strangers and unease because I’d prefer to keep most of my thoughts to myself. It also doesn’t help that I have to break down my thoughts into 140 characters or less. While I understand the benefits of learning to be simple and getting straight to the point quicker, I feel as though 140 characters sometimes isn’t enough space to compose the fullness of my thoughts.

I could fill my tweet with four of even five layers of information, as David Silver encourages, in The difference between thin and thick tweets, as the proper way to, “Craft creative, meaty, and to-the-point messages that attract other people’s attention.” I can say something catchy in under 140 characters, but I can say even more attention grabbing things in over 140 words, as well.

Each time I have tweeted, I often found myself going over the limit and had to figure out which words I can take out or how I can reword my sentence in order for it to fit. One size does not fit all, Twitter. The Twitter media is biased toward abstraction; I can say what I want but under Twitter terms/within the proper Twitter character count. Twitter becomes even more abstracted when thoughts are linked to similar subjects, links that aren’t necessarily original sources of information (and the original sources of information become further disconnected with every re-tweet). But Twitter lovers don’t care about abstraction, they get to encroach their thoughts into everyone and anyones head every time they want, which satisfies them.

In Program or be Programmed, Douglass Rushkoff says, “Everyone wants to have his or her model of change scale up, to host the website where the most important conversation takes place, or aggregate the Twitter feeds of all the people one level below.” Everyone wants attention. They say what they want (under 140 characters) so they can gain loads of followers, seem really cool, and become ‘Twitter Famous’. It’s a media outlet that will allow them to shine brighter than twitter lurkers, twitter self-promoters, and twitter newbies.

It’s a medium allowing many to believe they are more important or better than the average person, all because Justin Bieber retweeted what they had to say about McDonald’s. It’s a medium allowing everyone who hates Miley Cyrus to tweet her hideous messages.

It’s the reason you have skimmed this post and then suddenly became very distracted and are now opening a new tab.

In Is Google Making Us Stupid?, Nicholas Carr says, “The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.” With the exception of a good book, I can’t read anything longer than 500 words without wanting to surf the ether or eat a snack due to boredom. Sites like Twitter and Facebook distract us from what we should fully engage in but instead we fully engage in them. We can spend hours reading status updates or even commenting on pictures of our friends but we can’t dedicate a full hour to Sarah Coyne’s peer-reviewed journal without checking Facebook or Twitter every couple of minutes. So we skim.

We skim because have search engines like Google, that provide us with reliable information and allow us to no longer need to know everything. Google is not making us stupid, it’s just making things convenient; making it easier to find what we are looking for in a timely fashion. I often think with each new thing I learn, a piece of old information I lose so I am grateful for Google so I can refresh my memory when I need to.

I am well aware that I have brought up many different points along with many different readings throughout this post but my overall purpose is to connect social media, specifically twitter, to the specific readings I addressed:

I believe twitter connects to Rushkoff in how it allows us to read posts but not engage with the details and how it allows disconnection through media to take place. Twitter connects to Dibbell in how it only allows for a minimal amount of clever to shine in our words. It connects to Silver in how it allows us to compose thin or thick tweets, and it connects to Carr in how it serves as a distraction.

What do you consider to be the five best things about Twitter? The five worst?

Do you think social media sites like Twitter are making us stupid?

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