A Player's Right To Privacy
Letters to the editor
- Selina Kelley
Communicating on a Mud
Creators vs Players
- Anthony Peck
Denumerization of Muds
- Brad Smith
Around the World in 24 Hours
- Marcie Kligman
Use Your GDI!
- Aaron "Ajax" Berkowitz
Why use Artificial Intelligence?
- Tony Wilkinson
Enter your email to be informed when this site is updated.
Communicating on a Mud
When I first logged on to Discworld in September of 1998, this was my
experience with a mud. Apart from sending the occasional broadcast to
people at the office, it was also my first shot at communicating with
others in a real-time and text-only environment. I guess the mysteries of
communication weren't my main concern in the beginning, but after having
played for a while I more and more often found myself pondering the
characteristics of the special form of communication you get in an
environment like this. It's a form of communication that strikes me as a
far from ideal hybrid between the traditional forms of written and oral
communication, and it seems somehow more prone to misunderstandings than
the other two.
Dentist on a camel, an old australian dentist.
Communication on a mud is a hybrid in the sense that we pretty much
behave as though we're having an ordinary, face-to-face conversation,
the conversation actually takes place through a medium traditionally
associated with written communication. The really sad part of the story is
that this hybrid lacks the advantages of both the traditional written and
oral forms of communication. The reason why the mud form of communication
so prone to misunderstandings is, I think, that we don't always pay proper
attention to this fact. I also suspect that quite a few mudders never
actually think about it at all.
A good example of traditional written communication would be good old
snail-mail letters. When two people communicate by writing each other
letters, the communication as such does not take place in real time. Both
the reading and the writing of a letter consumes as much time as is
necessary for both parties. When writing a letter, you can take the time
you need to phrase everything carefully, making sure that your letter says
what you really want it to say. You also have a chance to read it all
again, maybe changing some parts or rewriting the whole thing, and you may
even decide never to mail it after all.
So, the typical written language is carefully phrased, reasonably free of
typos and spelling mistakes and syntactically 'better' than the typical
oral language. This means that in one respect, that is as far as syntax
semantics go, the chances of misunderstanding are reduced compared to oral
communication. But, oral communication has certain other advantages that
are lacking in written communication; advantages that serve again to
the chances of misunderstanding and to make misunderstandings much more
obvious to us right away, thus enabling us to clear them up before they
become a problem.
Oral communication totally lacks the inherent 'safety' of the written
form. It happens in real time and it's irreversible. Once you say
something, it stays said. Oral communication is normally much less formal
than written communication (exceptions to this are certain formalized ways
of communicating orally, like debates, meetings etc.). An ordinary
conversation between, say, two friends having a beer together is totally
informal, it has no rules, you can say whatever you want whenever you
not necessarily waiting for your friend to finish to make sure you know
what he's really trying to say, and you also get an immediate response to
the things you say.
Misunderstandings occur all the time, but mostly they get cleared up so
fast that we hardly even notice it. Why? Because we have access to a whole
array of nonverbal means of communication: body language, facial
expressions, gestures, tone of voice. We smile, laugh and cry and we look
each other in the eyes. All these signals are vitally important parts of
oral communication, and even if they don't convey much in the way
of actual information, they help us in two very important ways: they make
it very much easier to understand the intentions behind what the other
person is saying, if it's meant seriously or just as a joke. These
signals show us the other person's immediate reactions to what we say. In
both cases this
turns most misunderstandings into minor obstacles that are hardly
Of course there are some ways of getting around the lack of nonverbal
means of communication on a mud. For instance, you can show the person
you're talking to that you are smiling in several ways, like :o), or
or with soul commands like 'smile tilly'. Still, these things do not
all by themselves like a real smile usually does. You have to think about
it and actually type it out. And even when you do that, a signal like this
added to a sentence that is ambiguous for some reason or other doesn't
always help. If there's some sort of tension already building up in a
conversation, there's a good chance that signals like this will just be
interpreted as irony anyway.
According to my own experience, a normal, friendly conversation on a mud
will not suffer much from these disadvantages, but as soon as there are
stronger emotions involved, misunderstandings happen a lot more frequently
than they do in the more traditional forms of communication.
On Muds we communicate through written words only, but in real time. Most
of the stuff we type out and pass on to our fellow Mudders would never get
past the "quality control" we impose upon ourselves when writing a
letter, and on top of that we have to keep telling each other - in
some way or other if we are happy, sad, angry, excited or disappointed,
if we're joking or being serious. We would all do well to keep these
limitations in mind, both when saying things ourselves and when
interpreting things that others say to us.
November 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
© Copyright Information