magister ludens

. . . in the tuesday cafe

Some people find the chattiness and playfulness of electronic discourse in general, but especially MOO discourse, very frustrating. It might seem like intellectual noise to them.

In a course I taught once in which MOOing was an integral part of the class discussion, I got frustrated one night at how much kidding around my students were doing, how much time they seemed to be wasting, how thoroughly they seemed to be avoiding doing the work they needed to do. To make them aware of their behavior, I went through the log of the discussion, cutting the aimless, phatic (social rather than informative) discourse, planning on showing them how little they actually got done. Instead, I surprised myself by seeing how many pages of text there actually were of good ideas and thoughtful comments about the reading in the course of their joking and gossiping about their lives. It had seemed to me that they were wasting time, but a great deal more of substance got said than I had noticed.

Similarly, scholars sometimes read the logs of or visit the Tuesday Cafes that address issues they're interested in. People annoyed by the socializing will think that nothing of substance ever gets said. Maybe it's our lack of familiarity with playful academic discourse that makes it so hard to judge when work is also getting done. Sometimes it's true, though, that not much does get done. (For postmodernists), though, the best thing about the Tuesday Cafe and MOO discourse in general is the fragmentary, allusive, playful nature of the conversation. Becky Rickly and Eric Crump, "beckster" and "eric" on MediaMOO, have written about playfulness. Their notion of the value of play is rather optimistic, and some people may not be able to tolerate the clowning around that MOOing seems to invite.

In his theories concerning what he calls the "third place," Ray Oldenburg notes how "idle" and playful much of the discourse is where humans gather to construct community. This suggests that much of the work of community building happens indirectly, as it were, as a result of a number of other, smaller and more local processes and interactions, that is, of playful, phatic discourse.

Introduction to the Tuesday Cafe.
What is the Tuesday Cafe?
What are some of the benefits offered by this kind of community?
What are some of the disadvantages of MOO discussions?
How do people get to the Cafe?
Works Cited

Last updated: 10 June 1996. Questions and comments? Please e-mail Sharon Cogdill at