Collaborative Spaces and Education
MU* Transcript

This is a transcript of a talk held in AcademICK, the MUSH of the CWRL for the Computers and Writing '96 Conference in Logan, Utah, May 27-June 2, 1996.

This was also in conjunction with a presentation to be given by Daniel Anderson and Joi Chevalier at C&W'96 on Distant Spaces and Education: MUspace and WWW Interaction.

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connect Kitjer

There's no place like home...
There's no place like home...
There's no place like home...

The Forum
The cool thin air swirls heavy cirrus mist in fingers around a circle of great stone arches that face each other indifferently, forming a dim perimeter over a wide arena of earth and yellow grass. On every arch's leg that sinks into the ground there is a dulled metal plaque bolted into the rock; they tell something of the destination that is beyond each arch, the horizon framed and darkened by the pale stone.
Sal Paradise
Fin de Siecle
Small, green snake
Darth Vader
Library Tardis
A parchment scroll with @decompile info (look scroll)
The Forum Archways Directory (look archways)
Obvious exits:
Arch 1 Arch 2 Arch 3 Arch 4 Arch 5 Arch 6 Arch 7 Arch 8 Arch 9 Arch 10 Arch 11 Arch 12 Arch 13
Xeglon is staring at you.

Xeglon says "What ho, Kitjer."

The Archway hums when you enter. Suddenly a bright, white light flashes and you are standing in....

The Mists
You are standing in a space with no boundaries that you can see. A smoky, grey mist billows around you. The greyness envelops you, enclosing you within its folds. The mist feels soft, gently stroking the hairs on your arm and on the back of your neck. Your palm feels slightly damp and the mist squirms around your fingers. The mist gently caresses your face and a sweet fragrance wafts around your nose, tickling you. Soon the soft mist brushes across your eyelashes, eyebrow, and the tiny hairs on your ears. You see a beautiful statue looking directly at you.

gold belt
A Black Cowl
A Flagon of Mead
A Set of Fasces
A Rapier(
A Vase
Obvious exits:


You say "hello...:)"

The statue suddenly speaks in comforting tones, "You have entered the Mists. The Mists are a place of wonder, to travel in time to places unseen by living eyes. The objects here are for your use. They are the gates which will lead you to realms known only in imagination, to people and times known only in books. My Mists are yours for now. I eagerly share them with you. Explore as you wish. Return if you must."

Daniel looks around and thinks about how students would treat these objects

barney says "all this walking makes me hungry for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich"

"That's a good question, daniel.

Daniel says "do all of the objects transport you somehwere, Kitjer?"

"I am still wondering about that myself. Yes, all of the objects are keyed to a specific place. Can you guess which time periods, perhaps? There are a couple of objects that do not that are students' projects.

"I am considering moving them, as they could be confusing.

barney nods

Daniel says "It does seem hard to know ahead of time what will get you where, but figuring it out on the way may not be the wrong way to go"

"If you look at each object, it should tell you something.

l mead

A Flagon of Mead
Sitting in the middle of the floor(?) is a large silver drinking vessel. The cup is cylindrical with a wide, flaring base. There is a detailed etching on the cup, a hunting scene with a man in a fur on horseback, being followed by four others on horseback as well. Circling the cup, you see their prey, a deer, a boar, and a fox. As you inspect more carefully, the mists part and the flagon appears to have something in it.

"The descriptions should indicate the time periods.

"They are descriptions of specific items which allude to some texts.

Daniel says "Did your students have advanced knowledge of what the objects were designed to do?"

barney has left.

Kitjer shakes his head.

"No, they didn't.

l rapier

A Rapier
The rapier is made of silver, which gleams brightly, despite The Mists. The hilt is made of gold and has jewels encrusted on it. A set of initials are on the hilt as well, "KK", and opposite it, another set of initials, "MI". The rapier's basket is silver as well.

l vase

A Vase
The vase is made of red clay, with a thin neck. The body of the vase depicts a beared individual in a chair, with a youth, clad in a lion skin, on one knee. Two other figures stand behind the youth, also in lion skins, their hands outstretched.

"But each item should indicate where it should lead you

Daniel says "Have you had any of your friends from clasics over to investigate the stuff?"


Daniel says "Hi SueN"

"Yes, the vase and fasces were their suggestions of representative materials. I picked the mead and the rapier.

"They did much of the descriptive work for Greece and Rome

Daniel says "I was thinking about the intuitive levels of the objects"

Kitjer nods.

"I wanted them to be somewhat intuitive. The flagon of mead seemed so obvious for medieval england.

"The vase for Greece, the fasces for Rome.

Daniel says "agrees"

Daniel says "oops"

"The rapier for courtier life in Elizabethan England.

Claudine has connected.

Daniel says "How have students and others reacted to the objects?"

Daniel says "Hi Claudine"

Claudine waves

Claudine says "Hi Daniel, we meet at last :)"

"Hi Claudine. :)

You say "Hi Claudine. :)"

Claudine says "Hi Kitjer"

Daniel says "Yes. hopefully face to face later in Logan"

Claudine says "Aw shucks. Can't make it. I'll only be able to participate online."

SueN suddenly appears out of nowhere in a flash of white light.

SueN has arrived.

Daniel says "Oh well. This is nice too."

"You made it.

"Talking to the dog can be a pain.

"Daniel, you were asking about the intuitive nature of the objects?

Claudine is staring at you.

SueN says "Is it 3pm EST now?""

Daniel says "Yes, I was thinking about the way that the objects are presented and wondering if someone who was unprepared could figure out the sort of history lesson in a room"

"It's 315EST, I believe.

Kitjer nods at Daniel.

"You suspect it is too complicated for someone unprepared?

"Possibly. But the technology can help. By looking at the objects, you are told what periods are represented.

"I would hope the technology could facilitate the history.

Daniel says "Not necessarily too complicated, but I think that the way you are trying to demonstrate cultures through artifacts is quite intereseting, but might not be clear right away"

Kitjer nods.

Daniel agrees

"Well, you have a point. I usually preface this space with some words on how it relates to what we are reading. So, they're not totally in the dark.

"I hadn't really thought about seeing students in here with *no* knowledge.

You say "I hadn't really thought about seeing students in here with *no* knowledge."

Daniel says "I guess the interaction is a big part of working through the environment. Would yoyu be able to write a kind of preface into the description of the mists?"

Kitjer nods.

"How so?

"I mean, the Statue emits a paragraph when you enter. I guess it could be more clear?

You say "I mean, the Statue emits a paragraph when you enter. I guess it could be more clear?"

"Claudine and Sue, please feel free to look <object> to see the objects in the room.

Daniel says "I'm not sure. Maybe a metaphor about the portals of time, a museum, something that clues people in to the mixture of objects and their historical significance. Maybe I'm just being too deterministic"

SueN says "Daniel, did you read the web page reference?"

baby-bop says "Barney's lost in the Medeival tavern, and he's pissed."

Daniel says "Yes, I'm actually devils advocating a bit.. sorry"

SueN thinks that's quite ok

"Perhaps, I am not deterministic enough.

Claudine says "What if this space pointed users to the website for more visual cues?"

"I wanted students to figure it out for themselves, with help from the technology.

You say "I wanted students to figure it out for themselves, with help from the technology."

SueN says "Nothing like someone being a devil's advocate now and again"

Kitjer nods at Claudine.

Daniel says "I think the idea of conveying historical and cultural contexts through description is great, but what kind of strategies are there to "port" lessons into objects?"

SueN says "For me, though, the screen travelled so fast it was impossible to see the list of objects before the screen rolled on"

"Well, students know the classite, and that materials are there. But I also didn't want to break the illusion by referring to an outside item.

Kitjer nods at Sue.

Claudine nods at Sue, too.

Daniel thinks not breaking the illusion is fine

"That's an issue I attempt to prepare them for....the scrolling screen.

butthead airbands and rocks head back and forth

SueN says "How?"

SueN says "I'm refering to scrolling"

"But perhaps to remind them of the www site from inside here is a good idea. But since we use it in class, I usually remind them to keep their browser page open.

"Oh, by simply explaining the space, the text based nature and that they should expect a conversation on screen, which means text flying by.

"We chat about the space for a day before actually entering ICK.

Daniel says "I guess, part of my questioning stems from not thinking clearly enough about the audience for the realms. I'm wondering how to get some of the preparations that you give to your students into the environment itself."

Kitjer nods. I see.

"I expected the audience to be students who have spent time in a networked classroom and are possibly doing a literature course.

SueN sees Daniel's point. MOOs can be quite bewildering sometimes

baby-bop says "such an audience should quickly become comfortable with the realms"

butthead says "Have either of you compared student discussions on Interchange (where different 'rooms' can be created doing subconferences) and MOOs"

"I also expected the audience to have some familiarity with online discussions, as we would have done Interchange before coming here.

Daniel says "I may be raising the expectations for environment too high. I suppose the majority of people coming here already know about MU*s and target this space because they know what's here."

baby-bop says "bye all, gotta go!"

Kitjer nods at butthead. I have been doing that this past semester, but the pretense for discussing here is different than in Interchange.

butthead says ""How is the pretense different, Kitjer?"

"When we discuss here, it is for specifically targeting cultural discussions, and roleplaying in character. In Interchange, we're usually having general class discussions.

baby-bop has disconnected.

"When we roleplay here, we have characters from the texts, there is an expectation of what the space will be like, and who will be present.

SueN says "That's a very interesting use. Does it work?"

butthead says "Do you get a more nuanced understanding of texts by asking students to roleplay?"

"For example, in Medieval England, we met on the fields of Agincourt (which are there) and the students were characters from Henry V. They discussed some issues as the characters, representing their views and understsandings of their culture.

Kitjer nods at Sue. It was great aid in asking students to recognize cultural and social strucutres and rhetoric.

Daniel says "Do you have a sense of the ways that the MU* environment itself and this specific space influences the role-playing. Is it the online character stuff or the historcial space that seems featured, or both?"

"They claimed to enjoy the roleplaying immensely as a way of understanding and interacting with the text.

Kitjer nods at butthead. Much more nuanced.

SueN says "Did they talk in the style of language used at that particular time?"

Daniel says "In what kinds of ways were they able to recognize cultural and social structures?"

"I am unsure. I would claim it's the character more than the space, but the space helps to remain in character, daniel.

"Sue, yes. The folks who did Katherine of France and Fluellen of Wales both attempted to use broken and stilted English to make points. The Archbishop used his convoluted logic and rhetoric.

Daniel says "Interesting. Sort of like putting on costumes"

Kitjer nods.

SueN thinks that's great!

Daniel thinks so too

"We had used Aristotle's Poetics as a starting point, focusing on rhetoric, epic characters and motivations. They actually liked the Aristotle and referred to it a lot during the semester.

Claudine thinks that's cool.

"So, when someone played God from Paradise Lost, they answered questions and were informed by the text they'd read.

"And when students had problems, others would tell them where they could look in the text to find a response.

SueN says "Did you see any greater understanding reflected in their course assignments because of this role play?"

Daniel says "When students used the stilted english, were they able to think about the way they were constructing a character as a kind of authorship?"

Kitjer nods. When we entered the MUSH finally (it had been down early in the semester), the content knowledge increased dramatically.

"Students were at least more familiar with the text than they had been and most recognized that their answers could be found or extrapolated from reading.

Kitjer nods at Daniel. A *small* few made it to the authorship level.

"Some were in character and gave responses that possibly were not even in the text.

Daniel says "Have you found that you've needed to adjust the syllabus at all. It seems like going back and forth between the text and the role-playing would be useful...but that takes time."

"One student did an excellent job as Montjoy, the herald. From his responses in the play, she extrapolated to discuss other issues, things that Montjoy never heard in the text.

"She made Montjoy more of a character.

"How do you mean adjust the syllabus?

"I'd put this into my syllabus originally....

Daniel says "Did you have to cut down on the number of readings?"

SueN says "That's really amazing. You could write a paper on it and do some research in controlled and uncontrolled groups."

"Oh. I don't think so. This was another discussion day. We still did 8 works, I think.

"Iliad, Aeneid, Gawain, Henry IV, Henry V, Paradise Lost, Marriage of Heaven/Hell, and Heart of Darkness.

Kitjer grins at Sue. Well, I'm just starting to read on cognitive theory and social constructions. :)

"Their talks are all posted online at the class site.

"And we'd go back and see what/how things were said/done.

Claudine says "url, please?"

"Students even responded to each other's playing and interpretations.


Claudine says "thanks. I'll definitely check this out."

"That's the course's main page, there is a link to Online Talk/Roleplaying there.

"There are regular Interchanges and then the Roleplaying.

Claudine nods

Daniel says "I'm interested in the student who played Montjoy. If she got to the point where she could think of herself as creating a character for a special purpose, did an awareness of the social nature of the process ever develop? I think that she would be thinking about audience quite a bit"

"I really wish the MUSH had not been down during the Iliad and Aeneid. They could have really used some character playing for those texts. The more remote the texts seem, the more I think these spaces can be used.

Claudine says "why do you suppose remoteness makes these spaces more appropriate, Kitjer?"

"Absolutely. She is a bright woman. She realized whom she was talking to...when she addressed Henry and attempted to disagree with his belief in responsibility (Act 4) she did so in a proper fashion to a King's Herald. An opposing King's Herald, no less, as Montjoy was France's Herald.

"Montjoy saw herself as a mediator and seemed to frame all responses suchly. Not as direct remarks, but as dispassionate intecessor. I was intrigued by her participation in the talk.

You say "Montjoy saw herself as a mediator and seemed to frame all responses suchly. Not as direct remarks, but as dispassionate intecessor. I was intrigued by her participation in the talk."

"I think many students simply do not want to form any relationships with material they think have no relationship to them.

Daniel says "In many ways, making these remote texts more present by building spaces is a form of advanced teaching. The way the environement is shaped ahead of time expands the boundary of the lesson, No? What about students building the spaces?"

"The idea is to shift their position to the text (and this is on our CW site).

Kitjer blinks at Daniel. Wow. I guess so. Hadn't seen it suchly. I'll think on it.

"I'd like to have them build spaces, but that will take more time and altering a syllabus.

"They build artifacts to leave...there are some in the medieval area.

"Daniel, what do you mean by advanced teaching?

Daniel says "What about preparation time. If you had to do the Illiad, for instance, how long would it have taken you to get the space ready?"

"eeks. i built most of this last year.

"And it's still not finished.

Daniel says "I think advanced teaching is the building in preparation. The lesson plans manifested in the environment. I'm sure it takes eons"

Daniel says "Hi guest"

"I build the general space. That took most of hours last year.

Guest says "Hi Daniel, I was looking for a teaching conference"

"Then I'll tailor a section for a particular text. The medieval section was basically there, but when I created the camps from Henry IV, that took 15 minutes before class.

Daniel says "We're talking about MU* spaces and role-playing for lit classes"

"So, Daniel, the general space is here, then tailored bits are added for the specific class.

"Oh, it's okay. just the 'net.

You say "Oh, it's okay. just the 'net."

Daniel says "I wonder what people think about the emerging new technologies for graphic MU*s. It seems like the text only space here might actually suit your purposes better."

Kitjer nods.

"I've not been on the graphic trail much, I'm not sure what it will add, I would suspect it would make things more confusing...

"When what I want students to focus on is the text.

Daniel says "I'm still interested in strategies for describing history through textual objects. How do you explain the significance of 1642 with an artifact?"

"I would think graphics would become intrusive.

Kitjer blinks.

"Hmm. What happened in 1642?

Kitjer laughs.

"Just kidding.

"I don't know. I'd want to bring up the beginnings of the Civil War.

"I'd have to sit and ponder what kind of artifcact to use.

Daniel says "Perhaps you might have to add some sort of prompt: the rapier makes you think of battlefields...etc.. Some people don't think this is good MU* form, though, do they?"

"A broadside of some sort?

Daniel says "Yeah"

"Yeah, that's spoofing, yeah.

Daniel says "spoofing?"

"A broadside which would bring up printing issues and could mention the horrid figure on the throne.

"Spoofing. Well, powergaming. Two different things. What you describe was powergaming..making actions and decisions for someone else.

"Especially in order to move the plot.

"Spoofing is when you actually make a character do something. You force commands onto them.


@emit Daniel jumps up and down.

Daniel jumps up and down.

Daniel says "I see. I've wondered about the caveat not to powergame. Do you think it is a good one. I do think that the broadside would do a better job than the powergaming, but doesn't the order not to powergame say something about authority, and might we want to have options for authority in these spaces?"

" I think it's a good one for several reasons...

"One, I think in a space like this, to control soemone's creation is a cardinal sin.

"Two, to powergame assumes someone can't think (if you can't get them into your plot), or you're not doing good writing...

"Three, to powergame is just plain rude. :)

"I'm not sure what it says about authority. Who's authority?

Daniel says "But doesn't creating an environment, when it's done subtly, control someone elses creation? I think the second reason, good writing, is the most forceful. Perhaps an author wants the reader to feel a certain way. Shame, maybe. There is nothing wrong with that."

"Well, you can set the conditions, but that's still not controlling their actions, feelings and decisions.

"You can still leave free will. If I make a room with a gun on the table, I'm not making you shoot yourself. you know this *oooooooold* argument.

"Why do I want to make you feel shame? Certainly, I'd rather write a scenario that would hopefully get you to generate your own catharsis, not tell you you should be ashamed. Which is more effective?

Daniel says "Definitely the second. I guess I'm not trying to deny that showing through vivid description is better than telling, I'm only wanting to maintian the possiblity that getting the reader to feel and act a certain way is a legitimate goal."

"If a student uses the @kick command on a horse, I'd be inclined to have the response say "The horse is wounded and neighs" as opposed to "You should feel awful as the horse is injured."

Claudine nods, thinking, obviously not a Catholic :)

"Oh, certainly. It is a legit goal. I'd rather focus on me writing commands that would give you the option, but are real consequences. "The horse is injured from your act." That's

Kitjer smiles at Claudine.

Daniel says "I agree. It's a great way to get student to think about using specifics and explaining what they mean. So I guess the strategy for making objects that teach is to be specific with descriptions and to have goals in mind."

"I can make you responsible without making a decision about how you feel or interpret the act, yes?

Kitjer nods.

"Absolutely. What are you goals, what is the intent, what do you need to have happen, etc.

Daniel ruminates

"If we go see Robert's Lovecraft novel representation, that's what he had to deal with.

Daniel says "I think one interesting thing here is the rhetorical dimensions to all this literary presentation. It's great!"

"How do I get someone to point B? How do I get them to possibly feel an emotion which would make them seek out point B? How many other emotions does tha sentence elicit? How can I narrow the confusion?

"I think so too. It makes us all be audience *and* author.

Daniel says "What kind of staying power have these critical thinking skills had when student moved back to print?"

"The students were very concerned with motivation in their writing, and consequences.

Claudine drifts toward the door, thinking that real life is calling her back, waves

Kitjer waves.

"Bye and thanks! :)

Claudine says "thanks for the chat, guys, but I have to go."

Daniel says "Bye Claudine."

Claudine says "bye"

Kraken has arrived.


Daniel says "I think I'm going to have to get off the modem myself. I've got an"

"Motivation, consequences, development of a character over time...

Kitjer nods at Daniel.

Daniel says "unfinished sentence to send"

Kitjer winces.

Daniel smiles

"We just had an online conference on teaching....

"You'll find this place pretty quiet during off semesters.

End of Edited Transcript.

Opening Teaching Theory The Web MU*S Conversation

Daniel Anderson
Joi Lynne Chevalier