WRITTEN OBJECT

Not only is the metaphorical space of hypertext visual, but the screen interaction provides 'visual speech.' While typing conversations, MUDers watch their words and the responses of others' form in front of them. Unlike oral conversation in which words are fleeting, existing only for an instant, in MUDs, the utterances of others appear on screen and remain. The words themselves become objects, which the player can react to and handle at their leisure. Like in a word processor, words can be cut and pasted on MUDs. Only now, instead of moving their own text, users are free to cut others' responses and paste them back. An online conversation resembles tossing a ball back and forth, or more specifically, like passing a written note on a slip of paper back and forth rapidly and repeatedly, making the text a physical object in cyberspace.

Hypertext is both fixed and malleable. As players type out remarks, they are free to edit and rewrite until they are ready to send the lines out. Once the message is sent, however, it is 'bound' that way and appears on other users' screens. Staring at the words as objects on the screen, MUDers are often more aware of minor language errors than in oral speech. Players often reflect on, and post corrections to, minor text errors they have made:

Green_Guest notes that his vowels are beginning to disappear on him....

Cyan_Guest says, "and=an by the way"

Jenine says, "yet another double term sentence"

(LambdaMOO).

In speech, since it must be created instantly and disappears an instant later, people tend to forgive many 'slips of the tongue' (Goffman, 222). MUDers have a harder time ignoring the visual presence of errors. This not only lessens the TRANSPARENCY of the language environment, but also reminds participants that they are in a DISTINCTLY WRITTEN WORLD, in which stricter rules of accuracy are in effect.