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Texts mirrors and fluid styluses (I)

bannermediie.GIF (1637 bytes)

bannermediie.GIF (1637 bytes)

Emanuela Grama

"Where does the body end and where does the mind start?
Is it not (that) the mind (is) a part of the body?
asks Quastro
"In MOO, the body is the mind", answers HerkieCosmo.
Lambda MOO

Our relations rely on words and on the signs that come along with them. Without these codes, assimilated by socialization or by subsequent interaction within a specific context, the words themselves would be simple joints of letters. A look or a gesture may sometimes mean much more that an entire story. The words are completing the exchange of signs and cultural symbols – tones of the voice, subtlety of the look, wear style, expressions of the face – everything which make our interactions not become null.

In our previous article, we referred to MUD as a virtual environment that belongs utterly to the words. This determination cancels from the beginning the non-verbal information that may be transmitted (possibly by images or sounds) and that implicitly might allow a new communicational dimension.

However, even without these informal communication channels, a MUD environment has its specific complexity as the words are passing from one side to another along with the required symbols and with a particular emotional burden. Unable to hear, to see or to smell each other, the members of a MUD are incorporating in words the signs they would transmit in real life by using a different communication channel. These symbols – which normally, in reality, are like a "sphere" (with the meaning of Logic) – that are determining the words’ real signification, the one that is meant to be, within the exclusive communication channel existing in a MUD, the written one, are converted into words. Thus, the word becomes double: it has its own, concrete meaning but also the possible signification given by a command from the Data base (that is, technically speaking, MUD).
If in a MUD room is given the command:
Fred whispers "Hi!" to Ginger,
only Ginger will see Fred’s greeting:
Fred whispers " Hi!" to you.
Herein the word would have its concrete meaning or, at least, its significancy would not be quite different.

But there are also certain MUDs with Emote commands that transform a word into a symbol, which includes expressions, actions, gestures, overpassing by far its concrete significance. For instance, the word french, used in MUD Revenge of the End of the Line: if Fred types "french Ginger", Ginger would see: Fred gives you a deep and passionate kiss. It seems to take forever…

Although it started as a game, based upon the ontological principle of any game – i.e. competition – the MUD environment diversified in time; actually, it followed two directions that some are even considering complementary: one direction would be the one of the beginning, the game with well defined rules, privileges and hierarchies, aiming a predefined end or at least imposing some thresholds of passage
which are meant to be, at the same time, of initiation; in our case, it all started from the game "Adventure", based upon the tolkienian stories, then passed through "Wizard" (conceived in 1978) and finally reached what was significantly called MUD. In this first version, called Multi-User-Dungeon, Dungeon was an one-single-player version of "Adventure" and the competition was the prerequisite of the game: the characters were supposed to kill monsters, to discover the treasures and by this, accumulating points ("powers"), to reach the superior level of wizards.

The most used command in these versions was "kill" – thus excluding the idea of help, of friendship, of communication and giving the game a finite characteristic: you were killing, but until when? Therefore a new MUD was conceived, whereby this command did not exist and by this canceling the existential principle pertaining to the previous MUDs. In this new version, the idea was the one of "constructing", of communicating, of socializing, of opening a virtual space whereby the interaction and communication are the basic principles. It was the case of "Tiny Mud" from 1989; starting with the ’90s, this MUD typology started to extend fast.



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