LIBERATING ENVIRONMENT

'Speaking' from a distance, with the ability to CONTROL MANY ASPECTS OF ONE'S PRESENTATION OF SELF, MUDers who might be reluctant to contribute to real world discussions seem to open up in cyberspace. As Hiltz notes in his recent study of computer conferencing versus face-to-face group discussions, "more opinions tend to be asked for and offered" (Hiltz, 125). Most of the minute inadequacies that might cause someone not to put in their 'two cents worth' (such as fears that looks, gender, or other physical quality will weaken the validity of their remarks) are overcome on MUDs, where physical presence is not transmitted.

Cyan_Guest [to Jorry]: It's different than real life in the respect that it doesn't matter what your MOO-friends look like physically. Here, interaction is mental rather than physical. Whereas dirty hair and an ugly mole could be quite disruptive to a real life conversation, here it doesn't factor into things at all (LambdaMOO).

Also, MUDs manage participation more broadly and evenly than spoken group meetings. In a face-to-face group, there is usually one or a few people who dominate discussion. Bales found that in face-to-face discussion there usually emerges a 'top man' who sends and receives disproportionate number of messages and who addresses considerably more remarks to the group as a whole than he addresses to specific individuals (Bales et al., 1951, p.465) (Hiltz, 107).

But in MUD, many users can enter their responses simultaneously, with less loss of information. In person, even two people talking at once is hard to follow, where in MUD, ten or more players may send short responses at the same time, and all can be read by other players (separately) at their own pace. Of course, even in computer conferencing there is a point of overload or 'spam' -- where the screen is so cluttered with continual input that the general train of conversation is impossible to follow. Because MUDs accommodate more participants at a time, however, the sense that one person 'should' dominate disappears, and there is more equal participation among users.