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Randal Woodland Computer-mediated communication has had a particularly dramatic impact on the lesbian and gay boare, whose members may live in geographic or psychological isolation. Through e-mail lists, USENET groups, and private BBSs, communication across the Internet and on other computer networks has been a source of information, friendship, and support for many lesbian and gay people. Spatial metaphors are an important clue about the different "safe" cyber-spaces that have been established. Even in ways users aren't always conscious of, space is a common metaphor for the different ways computer networks make information accessible. Such differences are the subject of this paper.

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On the other hand, these spaces are equivalent to spaces for other sociological groups that are less easy to trivialize. The fluid boundaries of online spaces prove an apt locus for this redefinition of queer identities.

Bulletin board systems often use the metaphor of a "room" to announce and segregate different topics. Although both have developed elaborate codes of behavior and appropriate discourse, these policies are generally developed by or at least strongly influenced by the users. That LambdaMOO has a ificantly different approach to regulating discourse is apparent; mesaage of an individual boarc rests with its owner, who can lock the room so that no one other then the users in the room can read what is said or done.

This intuitive affinity between place and discourse goes so deep in our understandings of online communication that it can be difficult at times to realize we are speaking in metaphors. Of its almost available forums on a wide messabe of topics, perhaps no others have garnered such recurring debate as the boundaries of its three rooms of primary interest to lesbians, bisexuals and gay men: a public forum LesBiGay Issuesa "family-only" safespace Queerspaceand a chat room Stonewall Cafe for queers and supportive straights.

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There are competing views, however, on what makes a particular space "safe. Other offshoots of Weaveworld take a much more messaye approach, but spatial metaphors need not be so literal. You see the two boys from the statue, wrestling. The concern with confidentiality on these spaces, which at times seems obsessive, reflects the very real dangers of a time when gay bashing is on the rise and homophobic politicians hold sway across the land, from local school boards to the halls of Congress.

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You see the two boys from the statue, wrestling. Boad types of rhetoric were associated with specific places such as the law court, legislative hall, or battlefield. Even such a political Luddite as Sen. On a large marble pedestal is a statue of two Greek warriors clad in bronze and silver armor. Equally disruptive to serious conversation is the casual chatting which some users seek. Thus the spatial metaphor of a metropolitan city suggests where responsibility for access to potentially offensive material including sexual content should rest.

Randal Woodland Computer-mediated communication has had a particularly dramatic impact on the lesbian and gay community, whose members may live in geographic or psychological isolation.

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Through e-mail lists, USENET groups, and private BBSs, communication across the Internet and on other computer networks has been a source of information, friendship, and support for many lesbian and gay people. Spatial metaphors are an important clue about the different "safe" cyber-spaces that have been established. Even in ways users aren't always conscious of, space is a common metaphor for the different ways computer networks make information accessible. Such differences are the subject of this paper.

This experience took place on a computer system known as a "MOO. While logged into such a system, a user is "in" one room or another, each with its own particular description. She can move from room to room and if people are "in" the same room she is, she can talk and otherwise interact with them, using lesbkan set of simple communication commands.

She can create her own character, choose from one of ten genders, and even create a room of her own to call home. I was in one of the public spaces the lawn in front of the large abandoned mansion that is the central architectural feature of LambdaMOO where many people came and went on their way to other places in the MOO.

One passerby asked about the pink triangle that I was "wearing" as part of my self-description; I explained that the symbol originated as a Nazi lessbian camp badge and that it ified gay rights. Though my new acquaintance immediately made it clear that he was straight and had a steady girlfriend, he seemed intrigued by what I said; messagge I confirmed that I was gay, he had a of questions he wanted to ask about homosexuality, some fairly explicit.

Drawing messagf my experience talking to psychology classes and community groups over the years, I answered as best I could, as his questions and my answers got more and more graphic. My clear sense of him at the time was that his curiosity had no ulterior motive; nor did my responses: in other words, this was a conversation about sex, rather than a sexually charged conversation. Since our conversation took place in an area with a fair amount of traffic, unsuspecting passersby might inadvertently eavesdrop on our conversation.

Mindful of a central principle of netiquett that jessage should not subject message users to unwelcome explicit language, I began feeling that we should move. He said no. Now this "move" that I suggested would simply have meant that we were reading information the room lesbiab from a different section of the LambdaMOO database in Palo Alto and that the text we were producing was no longer accessible to other users, but the real life implications of that invitation, translated by my interlocutor into "real life" terms, were too much for him to deal with.

He did agree, much as he would have in real life, I think, to move to a more secluded part of this public park so that we wouldn't disturb other users.

We had reached a curious compromise. Our discourse seemed to me inappropriate for the public space of the front lawn; the spatial implications of "going back to boarr room" suggested to him a discourse he found threatening. Yet both of us understood that spatial descriptions and appropriate discourse were linked in this particular virtual world.

This incident suggests the ways that MOOs in particular, but other online hoard as well, use place descriptions and spatial metaphors to in form appropriate discourse. Bulletin board systems often use the metaphor of a "room" to announce and segregate different topics. More elaborate systems such as America Online present a detailed articulation of spatial metaphors; on America Online these range from "Center Stage," an area where a large of members can interact with celebrities boqrd other special guests to more specialized and ephemeral chat rooms with varying degrees of privacy.

Taking the spatial metaphor to an extreme are systems such as MUDs and MOOs, in which the database of information is organized in and experienced through a fully realized virtual space.

This intuitive affinity between place and discourse goes so deep in our understandings of online communication that it can be difficult at times to realize we are speaking in metaphors. Lezbian reminder from my Chair to turn in my annual report is in my electronic mailbox; I'll move it to the Trash when I'm done.

There is a lesbian message board in German (called Lesarion) but only women is way too much for me.

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❶You follow a path to the east out of the forest. All users, even non-paying ones, must affirm that they are over 18, though no verification was required as bard Stivale, Charles J. New York: Penguin, The operators of LambdaMOO have provided the materials for the buildings of leebian community, but are not responsible for what is said or done in leebian. One of the reason Digital Queers encourages the use of America Online is its provision for members to have up to five screen names for eachany of which can be anonymous.

In the anonymity that all these systems make available to users, each recreates the kinds of real life spaces that have allowed for anonymous expressions of sexual identity. This experience took place on a computer system known as a "MOO.

What is striking about this room is that the spatial analogue of a back room has led to a further refinement of the discursive possibilities of MOOspace. Quittner, Josh.|A great single guy here.

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