OBJECT ORIENTED PROGRAMMING AND THE POWER OF THE READER

There is a new language operating in MUDs in addition to simply written (as opposed to spoken) English. Players must use the MUD's computer environment, or programming language, to pass their words along to other players. To the disembodied player's character, the commands of this programming language make up the equivalent of a physical body in cyberspace. Its purpose is to move the character from place to place, inflect and direct voice, and add gesture and expression.

This is done through a simple and highly-intuitive programming style known as Object Oriented Programming (OOP). All of the 13 existing MUD operating systems are OO-based. The commands of MUD correspond, where possible, to their physical counterparts in the real world. The command for "sa"ying something, for example, is simply the word "sa"y and an open quotation mark, or abbreviated as simply a quotation mark placed before the text to be "said." (To say "hi there" simply type: ["hi there]. The computer then prints: [you say, "hi there"] on the screen for all to see.) To make a gesture to accompany speech, a player simply types [pose: smiles], and [player smiles] appears. Spatial movement inside the virtual world works in the same manner. To walk north, users simply type "go north," or "n" for short. Not only the commands, but everything handled by the computer language is treated metaphorically, employing the same terminology used in real life.

Most objects correspond to entities in the real world (animals, cars, buildings etc.) or sometimes to easily recognized abstractions like a contract or an aeroplane journey. This immediately offers the attraction that problems may be solved using the vocabulary of the problem domain i.e. we can translate our understanding of the real world directly into software models and maintain the semantic connections between them with reasonable ease (Worthington, 53).

The characters and WORDS ARE VIRTUAL OBJECTS, and the commands provide links between them.

"When a meaningful message is received by an object, the appropriate method is invoked and the object either enters a new state or reports its state to the client" (Worthington, 54).

The computer does not discriminate. All related objects are treated equally by the machine.

1 "All items on the MUCK, whether they be players, rooms, exits/actions, things, or programs, are assigned a number. Any number refers to a specific item (whatever type it may be) in the database. Each item in the database is stored in much the same way regardless of type" (FAQ, glossary).

Since there is no human author choosing exactly which information gets presented and in what order, hypertexts take no part in the marginalization of certain VOICES or information. Consider the debate currently surrounding the literary cannon, for instance. This problem of 'which works to include' is virtually a non-issue in hypertextual terms, since the ideal is a database of all materials that the reader could navigate through on their own.