PART II: SOCIAL ASPECTS OF MUD

In concert with these LINGUISTIC IMPLICATIONS and constraints of MUDs are the social interactions that take place in cyberspace. How are these addicted and casual MUD players using this distinct new medium? The kinds of speech footings and assumptions of this new medium of communication make interactions in the new social space more open and direct.

On MUDs, the DECENTERING, ANONYMOUS quality of the fantasy forum allows more people to loosen up so that MORE PEOPLE PARTICIPATE and PARTICIPANTS GIVE MORE OPINIONATED RESPONSES than in face-to-face interactions. Whereas in real life encounters, people constantly use language to negotiate a safe and proper distance (Goffman, 128), in MUDs, the physical distance is set and the common computer environment acts as the normalizing force. This distancing provided by the computer allows people to drop many polite formalities of speech, and 'get to the point.' In a book compiled by a 'Netizen' and published over Internet, one user commented upon this directness common on MUDs:

I'm in awe of the power and energy linking thousands into a virtual intellectual coffee-house, where strangers can connect without the formalities of face to face rituals (hello, how are you today. . .) to allow a direct- connected style of communication that seems to transcend the 'how's the weather' kind of conversation to just let us connect without the bullshit (Net book, ch. 7_Netizen).

Also, since the niceties of speech are in many ways foregone in MUDs, and because of the MULTIVOCAL TENDENCY OF HYPERTEXT, there is LESS PRESSURE FOR PLAYERS TO CONFORM TO NORMS. In fact, new and interesting points of view are rewarded. Entering the Park on FurryMUCK or the entrance hall of LambdaMOO, characters say quick (and often creative) hellos, and jump right into 'conversations' on topics ranging from religion and politics to how to use the network itself. Since language (and its VISUAL OBJECT) is the only interaction available in these online parties, participants are forced to use MORE SKILLFUL, CREATIVE, or TOPICALLY INTERESTING language in order to engage others. For the most part, MUDers meet the challenges of the textual environment, creating ONLINE COMMUNITIES that can become part of their real life identity and enrich their lives. The new medium allows them to explore themselves and their actions objectively and re-envision their sense of self and community.