Pedagogies in Virtual Spaces:
Writing Classes in the MOO

CoverWeb OverView by Michael Day


I'm excited to have been invited to guest edit the coverweb for this second issue of Kairos on using MUDs and MOOs in writing classes. After using these synchronous communication environments in my own research and with my classes, I've wanted for quite some time to see a webbed collection of articles about using them, a collection which would be a resource for writing teachers, a place where we gather some of our combined wisdom and advice to share with others.

Because they are generally a completely textual communication medium, MOOs and MUDS allow classes that use them to focus rather narrowly on writing. Everything that is uttered, created, or described in a MUD or MOO must be uttered, created, or described in text, forcing us to recognize the power of the written word to persuade another, evoke meaning, or spur the imagination into new worlds. Like synchronous "chat rooms", MUDs and MOOs can be used for brainstorming and invention, harnessing the raw power of the participants' ideas bumping up against each other and building new thought structures. However, because MUDs and MOOs are environments, with objects and settings that can be described in text, the creative power of words, coupled with the genius of a simple programming language, they allow users such as our students to generate innovative worlds of their own made solely of written language. Cultures around the globe and across history have appreciated the power of words in naming -- that in putting an idea into words one brings it into being. Working in a MUD or MOO can give students both the thrill of creation along with some of the practice with manipulating written language they will need to survive in work and social settings.

However, as with any technology, the vision is far from egalitarian or utopian; classes using MUDs and MOOs encounter their share of problems. These difficulties range from frustration at not being able to keep up with a fast-paced MOO session to conflicts originating from the lack of face-to-face cues and misunderstandings related to distance and difference. Above all, we stress that conflict and frustration with communicating in a MUD or MOO is not always counterproductive; the cognitive dissonance and dissensus can result in teachable moments, through which the class can learn, discuss, and practice new strategies for communication and information gathering.


As many of you know, MUDs and MOOs are an outgrowth of the migration of role playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, to the networked environment. For role playing games, the anonymity provided by the network allows participants to take on whatever persona they chose, and to create textual worlds out of their own imaginations. Precisely the same features (and many more) prompted scholars and teachers to begin to examine how they might use these environments for research, scholarly exchange, and teaching.

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Pedagogical Reality @go tuesday TCC On-Line Comp & Lit More than Writing You Wanna MOO? Wading through MUD

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