Thursday, September 13, 2001

Adrian's avatar came barging into my room at linguaMOO with a little tail of student-avatars trailing him, to ask me if MOO texts are oral. Since I was more than a little distracted at the time, I tried to convince Adrian that it can't be, because my voice is so much more sexy than my writing. I fear he didn't quite buy that as a scholarly argument (his precise words in the response were: you wish), so I'll have to try again.

Roland Barthes writes:
The music one plays comes from an activity which is very little auditory, being above all manual (and thus in a way much more sensual). It is the music which you or I can play, alone or among friends, with no other audience than its participants (that is, with all risk of theatre, all temptation of hysteria removed); a muscular music in which the part taken by the sense of hearing is one only of ratification, as though the body were hearing - and not 'the soul'; a music which is not played 'by heart': seated at the keyboard or the music stand, the body controls, conducts, co-ordinates, having itself to transcribe what it reads, making sound and meaning, the body as inscriber and not just transmitter, simple receiver. (Barthes 1977:149)

In the same way the body is involved in the creation of music through an instrument, the body is involved in the creation of words through my voice, an act so intimate it cannot be imitated by any other means of communication. And while I know that very few proofread, the way I do, there is that moment of composition. That moment to consider your words in a MOO denotes nothing but the fact that you are typing, but in a spoken conversation it's immediately made to mean so much else: insecurity, reflection, arrogance, wariness - even aggression - depending on the tone of voice, infliction, speed, volume...

Do the MUD conversations have characteristics which might be similar to oral communication? I would guess so. Are they oral in nature? NO, I am TYPING!

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