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Socks-trAce meeting transcript

This is the edited transcript of our first meeting with the trAce Online Writing Community from England. The topic of discussion was online writing. It was a pleasure to be able to meet trAce members and discuss our perceptions of online life, which for us are mostly channeled through the written word. Indeed, we would also like to thank the trAce community for allowing us to host this discussion in their meeting room at Lingua MOO. In a MOO, there is a mysterious housekeeper who keeps getting rid of people after they disconnect. Just a little plot twist, nothing serious. :-)

The meeting was held on Thursday, October 29, at 9:30 am EST. Participants came from England, Germany, Canada, Norway, and all over the United States.

I was thinking that while the networking industry works furiously to connect customers to their chosen internet destinations, once people get to those destinations and meet, the human mind is charged with unexpected, creative chance connections of imagination that are still more multidimensional than a computer will ever be. And so to our discussion...

barbarasteinberg says, "shall I begin?"

barbarasteinberg says, "I think of online writing in two ways: someone writing a journal of his/her thoughts in email to stamp an impression of their soul on a community (or on another person), and the non-linear way a group can write a story together, each contributing a piece, following some set of rules."

barbarasteinberg says, "I was thinking of starting by asking everyone about their opinions on the email journal."

barbarasteinberg says, "In 1995, I wrote an email piece about the death of a friend from AIDS. It was a landmark for me of sorts because it made me realize that writing email was a format in itself, quite different from a short story, newspaper article, or novel. Perhaps writing email is closest to writing an opinion column in the editorial section of a newspaper, but it is not as formal because it can be of any length."

barbarasteinberg says, "For me, email is the written expression of a sigh. "

barbarasteinberg says, "But I was interested in whether or not people here write email as a format in itself. Have written in other formats, and what you feel the differences and similarities are to email? Or, are you more comfortable using email to publish your short stories, lets say, making email just a method of distrubution?"

Sue smiles. barbarasteinberg says, "END OF FIRST PART"

Sue says, "that's quite a start"

barbarasteinberg says, "in an hour, when everyone has finished reading ;-)"

Cynthia chuckles.

Sue says, "the nice thing about email for me is the way it links to the emotions..." Sue says, "I think we have all written a very unwise mail and pressed SEND and immediately regretted it..."

TOC says, "E-mail is a different form of expression. It is less immediate inits feed back, but quite powerful in its reach"

Sue says, "and i am sure we have all written a dozen mails on the same topic and not sent any of them"

Sue says, "in that way it links to our emotions very clearly"

Morten would be happy if one could cancel e-mails like you can with news :)

margaret has disconnected The housekeeper arrives to remove margaret.

Sue [to Morten]: with the system we have at work you can do that

TOC says, "I would like to recall about 30 or so e-mails, mostly flames and arrogant, half-baked responses"

Sue smiles at TOC.

TOC says, "I tend not to be too personal in e-mail, especially on Socks,because of the large lurjker population." Sue says, "i have a question..." TOC says, "Ask Away!"

Cynthia says, "I find myself using email at times to explore expression of my other selves"

Sue says, "some people used to be complimented by being called ' a good letter writer' - how would you define ' a good email writer'?"

TOC says, "A well composed letter is a well-composed letter, regardless of medium."

Cynthia says, "it has the connotation for me of persistence...a commitment to co-responding"

Sue [to Cynthia]: so time comes into it for you?

Cynthia [to Sue]: not necessarily...are you referring to when I said I use email at "times"?

Sue [to Cynthia]: - no your point about a commitment to coresponding

Morten says, "I'd say a good e-mail writer is someone who keeps his message clear and concise while still using the few traits of e-mail, one is probably the speed of transfer between writer and reader. Opens up for faster communication on current events, I think."

TOC says, "Hmmm.... I find e-mail slower than verbal communication. I was never much odf a snailmail writer, so I see e-mail more as an extension of verbal communication"

Sue says, "cynthia made the point about exploring other selves - who are you when you write email?"

barbarasteinberg says, "great question"

Cynthia [to Sue]: ah...well, to me a good letter writer is a person who writes faithfully and often. Writing is work. Maintaining correspondence is work. And in the end it is, for me, maintaining relationships, whether in a community (as in an email discussion list) or with specific individual relationships. The "good" in that phrase could also mean the quality of the missive...but that's always subjective. What constitutes "good" writing varies from person to person, from context to context

Morten says, "I'm usually myself 99% of the time I write e-mail. It depends on what kind of context I write in, just like whne I interact socially with other people."

Cynthia says, "I take more risks in email"

barbarasteinberg says, "a friend at school, normally demure, became highly sexual in her first experience in a chat room"

TOC says, "I will soetimes take a contrauian position jsut to keep a good discussion going.Hence the nivckname "The Old Curmudgeon""

Sue says, "i think I am me but faster in email, I see myself as thinking and moving faster"


Sue says, "when I started MOOing, I found I had a sense of humour!"

Cynthia says, "I like to use email to weave personal experience into topical discussions, and sometimes in order to give examples by way of representative anecdotes...especially in my email with students"

barbarasteinberg says, "I kind of look like Betty Boop :-)"

Sue [to Morten]: in my epxerience it works best to stick to the topic in speech and page other messages

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: so, you publish short stories via email?

barbarasteinberg says, "but in email, I become this force"

barbarasteinberg says, "I don't understand it myself :-)"

Sue says, "a force? do tell!"

Tweed says, "Barabara is very creative and expressive in her email"

barbarasteinberg says, "email lets the power of my emotions go free"

TOC says, "I have noticed from emeeting some people FTF after corresponding for some ime that their e-mail persaona is markedly differetfrom ther RL image"

barbarasteinberg says, "I don't know why, but it does, so I have been writing it for years"

barbarasteinberg says, "yes, peter makes a good point. My email is markedly different from my real life image"

Tweed says, "Barabara was, in person, how she is in email"

barbarasteinberg says, "in fact, my real life image is "

barbarasteinberg says, "really?"

Sue smiles.

Tweed says, "to me, you were"

barbarasteinberg says, "oh well, forget it then :-) :-)"

Sue says, "but...."

barbarasteinberg says, "but what I mean is that our real life image limits the way people react to us"

Sue says, "Tweed knew you fiurst in email, presumably..."

barbarasteinberg says, "and the responses you can give"

Tweed says, "yes"

barbarasteinberg says, "do you think?"

Sue says, "so his/her impression is affected by that"

NANCY says, " "meeting FTF after email may affect the personality projected too"

TOC says, "Good e-mail correspondence is _work_, just like good conversation. I belive that a person's real self will eventually bubble to the surface over the course of corresponence"

barbarasteinberg says, "email allows you to let it go"

Tweed says, "I think it depends on disclosure, though"

Sue says, "ah, disclosure is important in email - such an urge to do it!"

barbarasteinberg says, "very true. The revelation - privacy balance. A big issue. Any thoughts on that?"

TOC says, "Tweed - what sort of "disclosure do you mean?"

Tweed says, "letting people know who we are, the good and the bad"

Morten lets his other self enter the room

Tweed says, "so as to not project an artificial personality"

Majik arrives.

Morten bows and leaves the room

Morten has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove Morten.

barbarasteinberg says, "this is interesting. after a comment about artificial personality, Morten entered as another self :-)"

TOC says, "I am most vcareful NOT too get too personal in e-mail, especially inSocks, wehere therre are so many lurkers. We had this discussion a while back."

NANCY says, "that is my opinion too TOC"

Tweed says, "I think I have been *me* online, and yet others might agree or disagree"

Tweed says, "that is what made it so interesting to meet people at the retreat"

Majik says, "most people I've met IRL after meeting them on-line have behaved more or less exactly like they did on-line."

TOC says, "I can be very supportive of others in SOCKS (at least I think I am) but I would not go there, most fo the time, to get support for my trioubles. Too many strangers"

Seabright says, "I am pamela, used seabright as alternate log in""

barbarasteinberg says, "Socks had a retreat at someone's house in Oregon this summer"

Tweed says, "space andsay space adsay space and time collapsed"

Lynn has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove Lynn.

Cynthia says, "someone I read recently called being online and "identity experiment" -- I know I write in various modes of intelligibility and in various levels of disclosure, but always depending on my audience"

Tweed says, "true"

TOC says, "Cynthia - that is an excellent description - my early Socks posts were far different than now"

Tweed says, "I am more chatty online than in RL" Tweed says, "does that hold true for anyone else?"

Cynthia says, "my early email self was also different. I am more selective now. I have a higher threshold of what will "flush me out," so to speak :)"

Majik says, "TOC: is that because you've gotten more experience using and writing mail, or do you feel it's something else?"

NANCY says, "I am more subdued about postin than in real life, but I open up more in chat"

TOC says, "I, OTOH, am far more garrulous in FTF situations, where i know and can "control the crowd - must be the politician in me"

Majik says, "I can be chatty if I need to be, but most of the time I'm dead serious."

Cynthia smiles at TOC.

Seabright says, "I am always aware of the potential for misinterprettation on chat."

Majik wonders if any socks members will laugh at that last comment he had

barbarasteinberg says, "I did :-)"

Seabright says, "Email People's humour, etc.""

TOC says, "As did I"

Sue says, "what do you think about the ephemerality of email?"

Majik being a non-native English speaker wonders what "ephemerality" means

Seabright says, "Transient""

barbarasteinberg says, "like you write it, send it, and it disappears kind of"

Tweed says, "if the internet, and in particular email, is a universe, what do we find there?"

barbarasteinberg says, "unless you save it"

Sue [to Cynthia]: is there a dictionary here?

Seabright says, "It has it's place""

TOC says, "A personal experience - last year, about this time, I lost my best friend, who died suddenly. It was the first time I had eve spoken of my emotions on Socks. The support was incredible. On the list, by private e-mail and by telephone. "

Cynthia [to Sue]: that web dictionary is offline now, so we can't connect to that server

Tweed says, "I don't do emotions well online"

Majik says, "Don't we all save our sent e-mail somewhere?""

Seabright says, "BLade Runner, when the sololoquoy has the line ""not I,"" Tweed says, "which means I am not supportive, as I should be, when people are need it"

Cynthia says, "to me, it's a message in a bottle thrown on an open sea"

TOC says, "If I saved all my e-mail, I would need a terabyte hard drive!"

barbarasteinberg says, "but then I was thinkingdoes the ephemeral nature of email disappear when a topic is repeated millions of times 24 hours a day, like let's say the Clinton scandal?"

Tweed says, "I tend to try to problem solve, typical makle"

TOC says, "I think thsat pen-amnd-ink letter writing is MORE ephemeral. I never keep copies of handwritten letters, but soem e-mail I preserve"

barbarasteinberg says, "I remember that wonderful book about the relationship between a woman and the owner of a bookstore" barbarasteinberg says, "Charing Cross Road"

Cynthia says, "my father has over 600 of my grandmother's letters, and I'm so grateful that he saved them. "

TOC says, "84 "

Tweed says, "people here familiar with quantum systems?"

barbarasteinberg says, "reminds me of what an email relationship would be like"

barbarasteinberg says, "no, please tell us about quantum systems"

Sue says, "another one is Nicholson Baker's VOX which is about a sex phone line but very similar"

NANCY says, "for me, email communication is getting to know people one layer at a time, you have to liook for clues with each post"

Cynthia [to NANCY]: good description...I am an onion then :)

barbarasteinberg says, "for whatever inexplicable reason, I have always gone more toward the revelation end of the scale in email"

TOC says, "An English teacher in one of my client schools was bemoaning the use of word-processing wequipment - he says that the art of the first draft is disappearing, as is our record of authors' early attempts at writing."

LynnD says, "learning by layer" is an accurate description"

Tweed says, "it has to do with"

barbarasteinberg says, "yes, it is very interesting to go to a manuscript museum and see authors annotations"

Majik says, "I still write notes with pen & paper when I'm writing serious stuff. Cannot get that done right on a computer yet."

TOC says, "I have several pages of an early draft of Conan Doyle's Study in Scarlet - how sad it wouldbe to have only the finished version."

Cynthia [to TOC]: I teach writing and require all my students to hand in 3 drafts, it's not hard to simply save versions at each stage of the process. No need to blame word processing for the demise of the first draft

Sue says, "i have a series of DH lawrences redrafts of The Rainbow.."

Tweed says, "it has to do with the the behaviour of sub-atomic particles and the influence of consciousness in the"

barbarasteinberg says, "and I am finding myself writing my school papers in Pine because I need the immediacy of being able to send email to inspire the words to come out, even if I am only sending to myself"

Sue says, "and the most interesrting thing is that you see not just his writing improving, but you see his thoughts changing and developing as he reworks the story"

Cynthia [to Sue]: oooooo, how kewl. I'm a big fan of Lawrence

Sue [to barbarasteinberg]: you ARE an email addiuct!

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: have you considered writing in real-time like here?

barbarasteinberg says, "no, what do you mean?"

pamela has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove pamela.

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: well, Jan and I just turn on a recorder and start talking when we write...

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: and then we edit the log to take out the conversational cues, like Cynthia says, etc etc. This works well alone also

barbarasteinberg says, "but I think Peter's point about author's manuscript notes is interesting"

barbarasteinberg says, "the editing process was slower, you created the words with your hands"

deven has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove deven.

Tweed says, "most of the stuff I am writing is not coming through"

TOC says, "I have difficyulty writing drafts, as my style is more "shoot fro the hip" and flow-oriented. "

barbarasteinberg says, "just the concept of processing words seems so mechanical and unwriter-like"

barbarasteinberg says, "but I am open to other interpretations"

TOC says, "Gotta riun - son and new granddaughter on the phone - was nice TOC has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove TOC.

barbarasteinberg says, "shall I go on to the next question?" barbarasteinberg says, "Has anyone ever written a hypertext story in a group? Did you like it? What were your experiences with that?"

carolyn has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove carolyn.

NANCY says, "define hypertext for me Barbara"

barbarasteinberg says, "I am working on a database structure to allow people to contribute to a story by choosing a character. They would be able to put in a character profile, as well. They could choose a new story category (or thread) and just fill in the pieces of the puzzle wherever they felt like putting a piece, thereby creating a whole story." barbarasteinberg says, "I suppose I would define it as a story in a house that can be built on the fly"

Majik says, "In my book 'hypertext' is text where you have the possibility of going directly from a page to another using a reference on the first."

LynnD says, "but not actual hypertext?""

barbarasteinberg says, "but how would other people define it? Do you kind of get discombobulated with non-linear writing?"

Cynthia says, "we have a chain-story object here in the MOO that allows people to write similarly"

barbarasteinberg says, "do you like using it?"

Cynthia says, "yes...and we also use it for collective journaling..."

barbarasteinberg says, "is it as emotional as straight email?"

Cynthia says, "some students are online here now doing that for a rhetoric class...we set up a chain-story object and when they write to it, it appends their name behind what they write. But it was originally programmed for writing chain-stories"

john_mcc says, "collective journaling sounds interesting, how does it work? Is it collaborative?""

Tweed has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove Tweed.

barbarasteinberg says, "I did this perl program to mysql databases for a hang gliding community in California that I hope will work as a collective journal" barbarasteinberg says, "but the kind of technology that houses communities is interesting, too"

Cynthia says, "yes, in the sense that the teachers is requiring students to post to a collective class journal...which is different from the email discussio list they also post to. The collletive journal posts are less formal, less focused, more fluid" Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: sounds interesting

barbarasteinberg says, "it is amazing to me that with all the people working on software to house communities, and different methods to communicate, that email still seems the closest to our emotions"

LynnD says, "hmm, I think chat is closer, in our group"" LynnD says, "in Socks""

Sue says, "do many people use chat in your group?"

LynnD says, "actually, yes""

Sue says, "how many would you have online at one time?"

LynnD says, "but fewer chatters than posters""

john_mcc says, "Maybe the closest and the farthest at the same time... I've often found that e-mail is notorious for losing the subtle nuances that we often rely on in face-to-face conversation... ""

barbarasteinberg says, "do you have chat at trAce?"

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: we're doing it now :)

Sue says, "we do, but at communityware it does notwork very well with macs, and we prefer to talk in MOOs generally"

barbarasteinberg says, "thank you. I think I will go eat some carrots to wake up my brain cells :-)"

LynnD says, ":)""

Cynthia giggles.

NANCY says, "in chat we talk more about the incidental parts of our lives"

Sue says, "we have only bneen at communityware for 2 weeks so it is hard to tell really"

NANCY says, "posting covers some of that but we hit "bigger"issues for the most part"

LynnD says, "we swing from the incidentals to the very immediate and serious""

Sue says, "i prefer moos to chat because here i can have some corporeality"

NANCY says, "true Lynn"

Cynthia hates to characterize MOO conversations as "chat". Chat has a way of denigrating (and feminizing) discourse here. There's no better way to undermine the value of conversation/writing here than to call it chat.

barbarasteinberg says, "what do you think of communityware so far?" barbarasteinberg says, "feminizing?"

LynnD says, "huh, but the label doesn't dictate the quality??""

Sue says, "we like it - there are many features we have not learned yet, but it has great potential - what do you think?"

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: I mean that chat is usually associated with women's gossip, "kitchen-talk" as Michael Joyce calls it

Sue says, "whats wrong with kitchen talk?"

LynnD [to Cynthia]: I thought of chat as more associated with kids on aol :)

Sue says, "is that a man making that definition?" Sue loves kitchen talk!

barbarasteinberg says, "I think it is a pre-made house, but it looks good. Unfortunately I have all these wild dreams of interactive maps and crossword puzzles and building my own house. sigh. :-)"

john_mcc says, "I think chat for me is a way to say hi to everyone and catch up a bit because I'm often too busy during the week for very much correspondence via e-mail... ""

Cynthia [to LynnD]: that too :)...people associate it with inane pedestrian kind of conversation Cynthia smiles at Sue. Cynthia nods vigorously in agreement with Sue's ideas.

Sue [to Cynthia]: i am serious

Cynthia is too!

Sue says, "who does he think he is to criticise womens talk?"

Cynthia [to barbarasteinberg]: do you have a character here? you can build here if you want :)

NANCY says, "chat is the personal aspect of electronic communication"

barbarasteinberg says, "women's conversation ;-)"

LynnD says, "well, I'm into debunking stereotypes""

Sue says, "some big intellectual who always has serious conversations?" pamela says, "I will t"msay j I am tying "trying tsay chat has many "arg"why is my styptyping not working?""

LynnD says, "and I relly aeally love Socks chat, the silly and the sublime""

pamela has disconnected. The housekeeper arrives to remove pamela.

Sue [to barbarasteinberg]: cynthia;'s right - there's loads you could do here

barbarasteinberg says, "chat is lighthearted and humorous. I suppose if people have built up a real rapor as a community in email, chat can be a nice balance" barbarasteinberg says, "chat is a light reflection of a greater whole"

LynnD says, "I woujld not eliminate the email part""

john_mcc says, "The housekeeper certainly stays busy here. : ) ""

LynnD says, "but some chat can be qyuite heavy and immediate""

NANCY says, "can that housekeeper come to my house :)"

barbarasteinberg says, "I wonder if email is so popular for the same reason that radio is still popular. Through words, the persons imagination is set free, and our memories are so much more complex and multi-dimensional than a computer can ever be. "

LynnD says, "some would say this is the light part of chat, all of the greetings""

NANCY says, "but without the greetings, xsome would never stay"

LynnD says, "I agree, Nancy""

barbarasteinberg says, "greetings are very important"

LynnD says, "I'm not some tho""

valya says, "oy, if some could figure out how to do the greegtings, it'd be good, to!"

NANCY says, "nothing like 7 or 8 people saying welcome to make you feel a part of the community"

Cynthia MOOOOOOOOOOs. . . (__==__) ( We looove (oo) * to MOO !!) O o . \/------/ || || ||----|| || ||

LynnD says, "the welcomes are wonderful""

valya says, "ahhh yep"

LynnD says, "Barbara, did you mean talk or callin radio"?""

valya says, "sometimes the welcomes, at least in our chat, can help diffuse weird or difficult situations, too."

Sue [to barbarasteinberg]: i am interested in your comment about greetings

LynnD says, "where there is some intersaction?""

barbarasteinberg says, "we were talking about how email is still central to communities even through there are so many other choices out there"

valya says, "i definitely think it is allows us to reflect, to hear when we are ready."

barbarasteinberg says, "well I agree with everyone on the greeting issue"

Sue says, "in past moo meetings we have agreed to dispence with greetings because they interrupt the flow"

LynnD says, "Sue that could work with a known group""

Sue says, "but clearly you all feel you need it"

barbarasteinberg says, "if you want to be formal and follow rules, but lots of times the emotional interaction takes place between the cracks"

valya says, "it does seem that it's slower than some chat sox that why?"

barbarasteinberg says, "so the issue becomes one of how much control do you want to exert over the discussion structure"

NANCY says, "if the meeting is on a topic I would agree , but when it's just visiting, greetings are important"

barbarasteinberg says, "I find that if you let go, and give members the control, they will value their stake in the community (chat, discussion, whatever) and then the emotions are exchanged"

barbarasteinberg says, "the point is the bond, not the format"

barbarasteinberg says, "the point is the communication not the rules"

valya says, "b, I think that is a key here -- we do feel ownership, ...of course, that backfires now and then!"

barbarasteinberg says, "but there is a balance too"

barbarasteinberg says, "you can't let something go to insane :-)"

barbarasteinberg says, "however, I find that everyone will keep the balance on their own -- less work for the moderator"

LynnD says, "I prefer straight typing, other things my may get tin the way""

barbarasteinberg says, "then I just get to have fun"

LynnD says, "the other bells and whistles are fun tho""

barbarasteinberg says, "would anyone like to continue discussion why text email is still such a powerful vehicle for communication even though there ar eall these other graphically based products on the market?"

Cynthia should say farewell...must go teach ;) ...and thanks Sue for having this joint meeting, and Barbara for all the great questions! valya says, "which graphically based products are you meanin?"

barbarasteinberg says, "like, has anyone ever experimented with avatars?"

Sue waves at Cynthia.

barbarasteinberg says, "palace chat?"

Cynthia waves at Sue, barbarasteinberg, you, NANCY, LynnD, john_mcc, Majik, and valya.

Sue says, "i have to go too- but feel free to stay"

Cynthia goes home.

barbarasteinberg says, "well, perhaps this discussion has come to an end" barbarasteinberg says, "we've been on for over an hour!"

Sue says, "sorry - i have a meeting to go to"

barbarasteinberg says, "thanks Sue for having me" barbarasteinberg says, "and us" barbarasteinberg says, ":-)"

NANCY says, "this has been nice"

Sue says, "but thank you all for coming and I hope you will come back and also check out the trace site"

barbarasteinberg says, "cool"

barbarasteinberg says, "anyway, I have to go to a meeting at school, as well"

Sue says, "i will say goodbye-please stay as long as you like"

Sue waves at barbarasteinberg, you, NANCY, LynnD, john_mcc, Majik, and valya.

Sue says, "great to meet you!"

*** Disconnected ***

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