Concepts for PennMOO, by A. Filreis

Concepts for PennMOO, January 1996

Alan Filreis

Not long ago, I described in general terms my own sense of what 'structural' (that is to say, of course - CONCEPTUAL) changes PennMOO might undergo, if we wish it to serve as an ideal teaching space (rather than a reflection of the real). I'd like to say that point again - briefly - as a kind of call for proposals from among this group for ways in which the architecture can/ought to be changed to suit what I see as the needs of new forms of undergraduate teaching coming into being at Penn.

In order for virtual classroom/space interaction to be a part of the discussions about "21st Century Undergraduate Education" - and, not to put too fine a point on it, to be eligible for attention and even funding dollars that will be paid to innovative projects that harmonize with the goals of this large effort - we ought to adjust PennMOO so that it serves explicitly as the ideal space, as a currently unrealizable kind of space in the physical realm of Penn. PennMOO ought to strike those who enter it as not fundamentally resembling "Penn as it is" - rather it should present possibilities (various ones, to be sure) for "Penn as it should be" or "Penn is it could be."

I would like this memo to serve as the beginning of a discussion that has as its objective a plan for how PennMOO should look and feel in the near future.

Who will start? What deadline should we set for ourselves?

My English 103, a course about the literature of community, will be making an effort to use PennMOO as a means of experimenting with ideal intellectual communities. So of course I'd like to have at least a section of MOO created with this notion in mind.

Some other points:

1. We should look for ways to make PennMOO interesting to graduate students and faculty, e.g. invite speakers who would not be otherwise available in person, and/or to start topic-based seminars that include graduate students from other schools.

2. We should work more energetically with faculty to move beyond the 'getting started' mode toward using PennMOO in more sophisticated ways.

3. We should explore partnerships with residences - particularly College Houses - so that virtual communities are part of the PennMOO landscape and so we are ready for the advent of full-scale residential "Colleges," the first of which are to be opened in 9/97.

4. We should work to create a MOO-based community, overlapping with BUT DISTINCT from the course-based communities that inhabit the space at present. To this end, I'm going to suggest that we rethink the issue of students building their own spaces, and give 'unofficial' spaces a real chance to develop. I'm going to experiment with this in my English 103.

5. Create more spaces that "do" things, such as the poetry slam equipment and skating rink.

6. Generally, we should work to ELIMINATE THE SEPARATION OF ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL - we should integrate these as wholly and assiduously as we can. This is, after all, the one thing PennMOO can do that most other academic spaces literally cannot (with the exception of the very rare course taught in the students' residences).


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Last modified: Tuesday, 02-Jul-1996 22:49:19 EDT