This unprecedented gathering of “thermophiles in love” an entertaining, although at times frustrating, adventure into role-playing and online “dating”. I would even go so far as to call it e-literature, due to the fact that the world was almost entirely built on the contributed writings of its participants. I took the name@acido_melioristicus.
As an acido, I tried to channel the alpha male “personality” attributed to my species. Upon reading other blogs and discussion threads by other acidos, the A-type personality often took the form of boasting and pumping up of their own attributes. I am guessing that was partly because this was the premise upon which we were asked to rest our character (magnetic, attractive, over-the-top). Before jumping in, I checked out the “For Acidos Only” blog to see how other players approached it. What I found was that a lot of “acidos” opted for a more scientific edge, mining the language for terms that would fit their new chemical/bacterial forms. In addition, you had a bunch of people approaching it like a dating sight and “looking for love”, and also plenty of people promoting their acido-ship, even to the point of discriminating other forms of therms.
To wade into the mix, I posted a message on discussion boards both for fellow acidos and on the general discussion board titled “Hot Springs”. On the acido board, I tried an approach that I thought might have worked in a face-to-face social situation… seeking advice for lasting partnerships.
The result was less than spectacular. I got only the one message and less than a dozen views. In fact, the entire acido-only page only had three threads. I thought there would be more. Looking at the other “only” blogs, it seems like in each case, one of the threads got all the views and comments (in one case over 100), while the others barely got looked at. My second attempt worked better – again, as I tried to draw out others’ creativity by asking them what they were “most likely” to be. I’m not even sure, looking back, what I meant by that, but the responses seemed to reflect the way others’ saw themselves in contrast to the other thermophiles, thereby helping define themselves.
There was an interesting back and forth in preparing for the date and I was surprised that the Meso that set up my date actually defied the rules and put three “acidos” and one “fac” in the group – a direct violation of the “rules” of the game, which state that you should have one of each thermophile gender. How did it go? Probably the same way you would expect a real date to go if you included multiple people with the same personality type. Sometimes we complimented each other and sometimes we clashed, although with somewhat comical results. We all worked to attribute activities and, in some cases, personalities to each other – particularly the “fac” which seemed to be thematically sidelined. I thought it fascinating how we chose to role play. The first message from @acido_reflux showed the kind of reaction you might expect someone who is dealing with a social situation in which the rules are violated – some anger and frustration, both at the Meso in charge and at the other acidos. I did the same, targeting one of the acidos as a therm that would try to “one-up” his fellows (consistent with an A-type personality), but @acido_quiloniusA didn’t do that at all. Instead, he/she took a different direction, celebrating the combination of acidos, even arguing that @fac_krispyking was the best of the group – something I would not have expected. Looking back, I wish I had gone more in the inclusive direction, but I got caught up in trying to role play the hyper-self-possessed and obsessed thermophile, instead of exploring a different way to relate. In fact, when @fac_krispyking blogged about the experience, and mentioned what seemed like a put-down from me, I actually felt disappointed, like I should have made more of a rhetorical effort to reach out to them. You can see the messages below.
So…. once we got to the actual date, it was amazing to see that my fellow thermophiles appeared to also taken the lesson to heart and made attempts to be more inclusive. You can see that we each made efforts to celebrate our similarities and our common characteristics rather than emphasizing our differences. There seemed to be quite a lot of soul-searching in these blogs, reconsidering our earlier brash and aggressive behavior and searching for common ground. All the pretense of using scientific terminology and language seems to have gone out the window at this point, and everyone is actually trying to relate to one another, hold each other up and end the experience on a good note. Although there were only a handful of blogs exchanged, it felt as though my fellow thermophiles were trying to reach out to me, and I actually got a bit of a smile when I saw them mention “me” in a positive light. What an odd reaction when it comes to people I don’t know and a character I invented (and by that I mean picked a name and a bit of a back story) less than a week ago!!
I began this NetProv with high expectations and at first, I was actually a little let down. I didn’t feel that there was a lot of participation, and I got a lot less feedback to my posts than I thought I would get. The “game” itself rests almost entirely on participation and it just didn’t seem that interesting. But as I wrote, I realized that by digging deeper, particularly into the writings and nuances of the blogs, I was able to see how our approach to our “date” and to each other changed even from blog to blog. We started to take responsibility for each other’s happiness, going out of our way to express positive feelings (even though it was difficult for any of us to completely shed the alpha personality we had been assigned at the outset). I felt that the game itself was stripped down in a way that allowed our characters to be developed entirely based on our interpretation of a tiny pre-prepared bio and our imagination. In addition, I was surprised at how one piece of writing in a digital space seemed to directly impact what followed, and not just as a direct response. The tone and approach seemed to be adjusted as we went along; when one seemed particularly harsh or aggressive, the next blog usually did some form of damage control, or dialing the overall tone back. Looking at other date groups, I seem to be one of the few that had a real interactive experience. Only six out of a few dozen discussion groups had more than one response, so it’s hard to judge whether others had the same experience I did. I saw that in the final assessment, much of the disappointment stemmed from people who simply didn’t play or respond. I don’t know that I developed any new digital literacies here, but I feel like I honed my abilities somewhat, seeing a more obvious interplay between the narratives perpetuated by the players (and that the tone and edge of a message impacted the way the response was written). As a digital experience, I think more involvement by other players would have made it more interesting, but I believe that I had the good fortune to experience a group that actually had something to say.