#rhizo15 Comment Response

The #rhizo15 conversation is taking off, including a post on Facebook about the use of Minecraft to help autistic students. One of my responses was fairly long, and I'm presenting it in whole here. It lacks some of the context, but illustrates, I believe, some of the thoughts I feel are important in the discussion.

Scott - I find my thoughts line up fairly nicely with what Lyn is saying (or at least what I'm hearing of it). From my background in computers and artificial neural networks, tied together with my interest in group dynamics, I view a network, in and of itself, as inert, and not particularly powerful or significant. It there is interaction on the network, collaboration, then it becomes an interesting topic.

Once there is interaction, there are pressures placed on all the participants, very much along the lines of group relations that Wilfred Bion talks about. These pressures, a conflict between who we think we are or want to be, and what the network wants us to be is a key area of learning.

What is interesting about online networks, and especially virtual worlds, from MOOs to Second Life to Minecraft, is that we have an opportunity to explore different ways of presenting. It starts from the old saying, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog”. In the mid 90s, I saw a lot of people exploring gender identity online: males who would present as females and vice versa, people who would choose non-binary gender identities, and people who would change identities at a moment’s notice. When I moved to Second Life, I ran into many members of the disabled community presenting themselves as temporarily able bodied. To me, all of this answers clearly your question about virtual worlds allowing subjectivity to flourish.

There is another component, which I suspect is important in Lyn’s work. She talks about autcraft as being a closed server creating a safe space with no bullying. I’ve seen plenty of online bullying in virtual worlds, dating back to the infamous Rape in Cyberspace in LambdMOO in the early 90s. Yet it is possible to create safe spaces where members of the network are given even more opportunity to explore subjectivity, and it sounds like autcraft is a good example of this.

I’m sorry to hear that you are running into people outside of Rhizo that you find are being disrespectful to you. It is a factor that needs to be considered carefully with any network someone joins. I hope this clarifies some of my thoughts in response to your and Lyn’s comments.