MOOS as Virtual Communities

MOOS as Virtual Communities

Shannon Roper (Marist College, USA) and Sharmila Pixy Ferris (William Paterson University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch061
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Abstract

Many researchers have observed that the Internet has changed the concept of virtual communities (Barnes, 2001, 2003; Jones, 1995, 1998; Rheingold, 1993). A unique example of virtual communities is a MOO—a specialized interactive online community that is usually based on a work of fiction such as book series, theater or television (Bartle, 1990). MOOs share many of the features of multi-user dimensions (MUDs) in that both allow participants to create their own virtual worlds, but some researchers consider MOOs to be “more sophisticated” (Barnes, 2001, p. 94). In a MOO community, the participants or “players” create their own virtual communities—fantasy communities complete with world structures, interpersonal norms and social constructs. Individual participants create characters complete with environment, history and personality constructs. The characters interact and influence each other and their environments, just as do the members of real-world communities. The MOO discussed in this case study is based on acclaimed fantasy author Anne McCaffery’s book series set on the fictional world of “Pern.” The players on DragonWings1 MOO create and develop characters over long periods, often many years, leading to the establishment and creation of a strong MOO. In this article we provide a case study of the DragonWings MOO as a unique virtual community. Because the concept of virtual communities is evolving with the Internet, and no definitive understanding of virtual community or virtual culture yet exists, we have chosen to structure our analysis of DragonWings MOO around the classical anthropological definition of culture and community. A seminal definition of culture, first articulated by Tylor (1871), provides the springboard for a number of anthropological definitions widely used today. Building on Tylor, White (1959), a prominent cultural scholar, defined culture as “within human organisms, i.e., concepts, beliefs, emotions, attitudes; within processes of social interaction among human beings; and within natural objects” (p. 237). He also identified symbols as a primary defining characteristic of culture. White’s simple yet comprehensive definition yields clear criteria that lend themselves to our analysis of MOOs. At the broadest level, an application of the criteria provides support for the acceptance of the Internet as a distinct and unique culture. At a more particular level, they provide a convenient tool for the analysis of a MOO as a virtual community. In the remainder of this article, we will utilize the definition outlined above to demonstrate the features that make DragonWings MOO a unique example of a virtual community.

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