Wednesday, Jun 17, 1998:
Now for the second event of the two events mentioned in the previous letter. As the second installment on this topic we alluded to two events which occurred in flat 2-dimensional graphic chat environments. One event, previous detailed, was the palpable experience of being-to-being contact through the vehicle of the pixel graphics interface. The second event, which we'll address in this third installment, relates to group work.
The importance of "group" work has been brought forth by many individuals from many different disciplines. Psychology, recovery, think tanks, and esoteric studies; the value of work as a group is acknowledged in each of these arenas.
Anyone that has worked with others in a group situation knows the value of such work. Unfortunately some of us haven't the good fortune to be geographically situated in proximity with others sharing our particular interest. Especially true for folks, like us dead guys and gals, with an interest in Labyrinth voyaging.
As an experiment, a group of voyagers were assembled online for a series of weekend excursions into the realm of group voyaging.
There is a binary effect that happens to a group when they have put in enough time as a group -- paid their respective dues. This binary effect is a dramatic before and after. Before the group "clicks" it is an assembled collect of relatively polite individuals able to cope with each other in a more or less hiding behind a mask of civility. After the group has "clicked" people are who they are only more so. Each member is brought into sharp comic-book relief exposed to any in the group willing to just look. This is when the group dynamic takes hold and now the work begins.
This is what happened to our weekend labyrinth warriors group. Some of the folks in this group have known each other for decades. During that time they were able to hide from themselves behind a mask of social convention -- I won't call you on your shit if you don't call me on my shit. Well, in this online adventure folks were put into a situation in which they were not willing to just sit around allowing this standard routine to continue.
The first stage was marked by each members trip being brought into high relieve. If someone was passive it became very apparent to others in the group they were passive. If someone was a bossy s.o.b. it became very apparent to others in the group they were a bossy s.o.b. If someone was total incapable of making a decision it became very apparent to others in the group they were incapable of making a decision. Etc.
The second stage was marked by each member starting to glimpse themselves in the mirror of the group. If someone was being viewed by the group as passive they started to see hints of themselves as passive reflected in the eyes of the group. If someone was being viewed by the group as a bossy s.o.b. they started to see hints of themselves as a bossy s.o.b reflected in the eyes of the group. Etc.
The third stage was marked by trumpets and the singing of angels as miracle of miracles occurred -- the group started to experiment with ways of coping. Individuals looked at themselves in terms of possibly modifying their behavior. Group members looked at themselves in terms of possibly finding ways to compensate for the behavior of others. The machine was engaged they were in the process of working as a group rather than an accidentally assembled collection of individuals. "The game was a foot" as my favorite detective is apt to say.
Many of the folks coming through this experiment in online group dynamics were changed fundamentally by the events. Some folks gave us a great belly laugh by confessing to observation of a habit in themselves that others have been trying to tell them about for years.
Those of us in the experiment were completely satisfied that real group work can be accomplished in an online setting. The results were as profound as any we have seen in decades.
Before leaving you in a haze of optimistic wonder let me assure you that we did introduced some very specific elements into the group. The group was lead by a 40 year veteran of group work and assisted by a 15 year veteran. So before rushing out to join an online group keep in mind that somewhere between 99% and 100% of online groups are dedicated to sex, pickups, titillation, sex, meeting people, and.... did I mention sex?.
It is possible to experience group work online. But don't expect it to happen automatically in the normal course of endeavor. Leastwise not until water runs uphill and dentist stop bitching about flossing.