Margaret A. Syverson

Computer Writing and Research Lab
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712


Published in the Proceedings of the Virtual Worlds And Simulation Conference (VWSIM '98). ed. Christopher Landauer and Kirstie Bellman. Simulation Series Vol. 30 No.2. San Diego: Society for Computer Simulation International. 107-112. (ISBN 1-566555-137-0)

KEYWORDS: Communications; Information Systems; Interactive Simulation; Rhetoric; Cognitive Science


This paper explores alternative patterns of reasoning and their implications for organizing and representing information in online environments such as MOOs and MUDs. Conventional models of reasoning as argumentation or problem-solving are limiting and reactive; they do not provide for generative forms of reasoning. Christopher Alexander's concept of a "pattern language" in architecture can be productively applied to reasoning patterns. Examples of patterns of reasoning include stars, spirals, collectivities, stories, networks, spatial architectures, and fractals. Currently MOO programming is limiting and frustrating for non-programmers because it does not support diverse patterns of reasoning. Further development of MOOs for use by professionals, scholars, and researchers depends on an understanding of a wide range of knowledge-making practices.


Information architecture is an emerging field which includes aspects of composition, rhetoric, design, cognitive science, information sciences, computer science, mathematics, and social sciences. As computer technologies have expanded the possibilities for creating, organizing, storing, representing, and communicating information, the sheer quantity of information exchanged has exploded. The new field of information architecture (or "informatics" in a current program proposal at UC Irvine) studies this dynamic process, develops systems to help people better manage it, and plans for changes projected in how information is developed and organized.

Theorists currently in the field, including Richard Saul Wurman, Jakob Nielsen, Kevin Mullet, Darrell Sano, and Edward Tufte argue that design, including typography and page design, use of graphics, and organizational structure are crucial to the delivery of information in ways that potential audiences find useful. These elements are often left to editors or publishers in formal publishing situations, or executed poorly in popular media and online communications. Yet they can determine whether information can be easily accessed, apprehended, and interpreted. Similarly, information archives are left in the hands of librarians whose experience and expertise may vary widely from expert to little or no training or preparation. Even well-trained librarians, however, may be ill-equipped to manage the proliferation and dynamic transformation of new media, modes, and genres of work, including web sites, multimedia compositions, collaborative constructions that cross continents and disciplinary boundaries, and online virtual worlds. There are many systems, from library catalogues to Web search engines, to research databases now in use to gather, store, and manipulate information, yet we still often feel overwhelmed, ill-informed, and lost in dealing with them. Wurman has termed our general apprehension "information anxiety."

While a great deal of work has been done in areas of information science, library science, interface design, and so on, we believe that little attention has been paid to the deeply rhetorical nature of information architecture, particularly in online environments.

Several ongoing projects at the University of Texas suggest to us, however, that MOOs and MUDs (text-based, graphical, or multimedia) present rich opportunities for information organization and representation, reasoning, and interaction which strongly impact students' individual knowledge, cognitive and interpersonal skills, and critical reflection. At the same time, these environments engage students actively in constructing meaning, shaping knowledge representation, providing logical navigation, engaging audiences, and establishing (or unraveling, depending on their purposes) coherence. Style and the mechanics of grammar matter, they discover; and they discover this at multiple, interdependent levels. For example, it is not uncommon for my students to email me that they are "having some trouble with pronouns" or that they are trying to write descriptions which will be equally vivid for a blind audience as for sighted readers.

In dealing with issues which are structural (such as at the programming level) and simultaneously presentational (affecting the audience's experience of the work), they discover the common medium is language. In the MOO it becomes apparent to students that language truly is power, and that language can go beyond merely describing reality to actively construct or transform the experience of reality, not only for themselves, but for others as well. They also come to understand their compositions, both online and conventional, as environments audiences enter, interact with, and respond to; they begin to understand that language shapes the activities and engagement of the audience through what well-known architect Christopher Alexander calls a "pattern language," which allows the construction of spaces which are at once individual and distinctive, yet recognizable and supportive of recurring patterns of activity. Whether our students are building in MOOs a space station, a science museum, a labyrinth, a game show, or a Western town, they are exploring the logic of online environments, testing the ways that knowledge can be shaped, and struggling to engage other participants in meaningful ways.

Conventional Models of Reasoning

I have long suspected that our conventional models of human reasoning are artificially restricted. We are very familiar with the concept of reasoning as a chain of linear logic, whether via the formal logic model of syllogistic proof, or the Toulmin model of claims, premises, warrants, grounds, and backing. The concept is to proceed in a sequential fashion from some initial starting point, following a single path through a series of linked operations to a conclusion which is intended to deliver the final judgment on the issue, anticipating and refuting or accommodating any objections or questions, and foreclosing any further doubt or opposition.

We are also familiar with the concept of "circular" reasoning, also called "begging the question," and often cited as an example of a fallacy or "faulty" logic, because, as Corbett puts it, such reasoning "assumes in the premise the conclusion that we are trying to prove:

A lawyer would be guilty of "begging the question" if he pleaded before a jury, "My client would not steal because he is an honest man." We can more readily detect the petitio principii [fallacy of begging the question] if we reconstruct the full chain of reasoning from the lawyer's enthymeme:

Any man who is honest will not steal.

My client is honest.

Therefore, my client would not steal.

The second premise and the conclusion say the same thing in different words, because of the tautological definition set up in the first premise. The argument eddies around in a circle; it doesn't go anywhere. (Corbett 1971)

A great deal of research on reasoning has focused on argumentation (particularly in rhetoric and linguistics) and problem solving (particularly in psychology and cognitive science). Consequently, reasoning has come to be rather narrowly defined. Yrjö Engeström, in Learning by Expanding, points out that problem-solving is often classified as the highest form of reasoning (2). He suggests, however, that this conception of reasoning is limited and fundamentally reactive. The alternative, in his view, is a concept of learning as "expansion which transcends the context given."(5) He grounds his research on the concept of activity as the unit of analysis, explaining: "...true expansion is always both internal and external, both mental and material. More specifically, I shall argue (a) that expansive processes can indeed by analyzed and modeled; (b) that the gateway to understanding expansion is neither the concept of collective unconscious nor that of perspective but the concept of activity; (c) that expansive processes are becoming integrated into processes of learning, i.e., that a historically new advanced type of learning--learning by expanding--is currently emerging in various fields of societal practice." (9)

A Pattern Language for Reasoning

Are conventional models the limit to patterns of human reasoning? I think not. Is there only one valid pattern for human reasoning? Probably not. There may be quite a range of diverse patterns of reasoning, each with validity in particular circumstances.

This concept of patterns of reasoning, particularly as it applies to MOOs, emerges from the work of Christopher Alexander on pattern languages in architecture. It's worth quoting two rather long excerpts in order to provide a context for the discussion that follows.

"Every creative act relies on language. It is not only those creative acts which are part of a traditional society which rely on language: all creative acts rely on pattern languages: the fumbling inexperienced constructions of a novice are made within the language which he has. The works of idiosyncratic genius are also created within some part of language too. And the most ordinary roads and bridges are all built within a language too....

In order to make patterns explicit, so that they can be shared in this new way, we must first of all review the very complex structure of a pattern....

As an element in the world, each pattern is a relationship between a certain context, a certain system of forces which occurs repeatedly in that context, and a certain spatial configuration which allows these forces to resolve themselves. ...

As an element of language, a pattern is an instruction, which shows how this spatial configuration can be used, over and over again, to resolve the given system of forces, wherever the context makes it relevant." (Alexander et al. 1977)

But a pattern in Alexander's view is not merely a template or formula which predetermines the outcome:

"It is certainly not enough merely to say that every pattern of events resides in space. That is obvious and not very interesting. What we want to know is just how the structure of the space supports the patterns of events it does, in such a way that if we change the structure of the space, we shall be able to predict what kinds of changes in the patterns of events this change will generate. In short, we want a theory which presents the interaction of the space and the events, in a clear and unambiguous way. ..

Further, it is very puzzling to realize that the "elements," which seem like elementary building blocks, keep varying, and are different every time that they occur. ..

For among the endless repetition of elements we see almost endless variation. Each church has a slightly different nave, the aisles are different, the west door is different. . .and in the nave, the various bays are usually different, the individual columns are different; each vault has slightly different ribs; each window has a slightly different tracery and different glass....

If the elements are different every time that they occur, evidently, then, it cannot be the elements themselves which are repeating in a building or a town: these so-called elements cannot be the ultimate "atomic" constituents of space. Since every church is different, the so-called element we call "church" is not constant at all. Giving it a name only deepens the puzzle. If every church is different, what is it that remains the same, from church to church that we call "church"?

Let us therefore look more carefully at the structure of the space from which a building or a town is made, to find out what it really is that is repeating there. We may notice first that over and above the elements, there are relationships between the elements which keep repeating too, just as the elements themselves repeat. . . . Beyond its elements each building is defined by certain patterns of relationships among the elements. When we look closer, we realize that these relationships are not extra, but necessary to the elements, indeed a part of them.. . .when we look closer still, we realize that even this view is still not very accurate. For it is not merely true that the relationships are attached to the elements: the fact is that the elements themselves are patterns of relationships. For, once we recognize that much of what we think of as an "element" in fact lies in the pattern of relationships between this thing and the things in the world around it, we then come to the second even greater realization, that the so-called element is itself nothing but a myth, and that indeed, the element itself is not just embedded in a pattern of relationships, but is itself entirely a pattern of relationships, and nothing else. . . .And finally, the things which seem like elements dissolve, and leave a fabric of relationships behind, which is the stuff that actually repeats itself, and gives the structure to a building or a town." (Alexander 1979)

The concept of pattern languages composing relationships which form structures to resolve dynamic tensions is a powerful way to look at variations in patterns of human reasoning, particularly as they are manifested in electronic environments such as MOOs and MUDs. Some of the patterns I've observed include stars, spirals, collectivities, stories, networks, spatial architectures, and fractals. These patterns are not confined to MOOs and MUDs, but the environment of MOOs and MUDs affords us unique opportunities for observing them.

Star Reasoning

This form of reasoning radiates outward from a single point, like rays of light from a star. I first noticed this pattern when I found myself in a remote parking lot looking for my car, which had, as it turns out, been stolen from the lot. After a great deal of walking around in a kind of fog of chaotic thoughts (Could I have actually parked it in a different lot? Had I taken the bus to work, leaving the car at home, and forgotten about it? Was I just "overlooking" it?), I gradually realized that the car had been stolen, was not there, was not returning any time soon, in fact, the car was gone. I began to think in a way I can only characterize as radiating out from that single point of information: my car was gone. One "ray" of reasoning dealt with my immediate situation: I would have to walk back to campus and notify the police. Another "ray" of reasoning dealt with the near-term: I would have to find some way to get home, perhaps by bus or taxi. Then there was the longer term: I would need to notify the insurance company, rent a car while waiting to see if my car was recovered, and if not, eventually shop for another car. Also radiating out from the central point were other lines of reasoning, such as historical reconstruction: I had parked in my usual space, I had locked the car, I had been in the office all day, allowing a thief plenty of time to take the car. I reasoned about where the car might be right now (probably Mexico), and whether the chances were good that it might be recovered. Each of these lines of reasoning began with the central fact of my car's absence and worked outward, yet it would be inadequate to simply "break off" each ray and consider it in isolation as an example of linear logic. These rays were clearly related to each other through their central starting point. In MOOs, we can observe participants using this form of reasoning when they get stuck at a certain point on a quest, or when they are attempting to accomplish some difficult piece of programming. They might repeatedly consult help files, try a particular strategy, page a wizard, or log off and back on again, but they keep returning to the same spot. Under conventional terms, they are not making any progress. Yet they are in fact reasoning via a pattern, and the pattern often yields surprising results. I believe much of our human reasoning follows this model, particularly when we are confronted with a startling unexplained event or phenomenon.

Spiral Reasoning

Another pattern I have observed is the spiral, where reasoning circles about a theme or topic without necessarily meeting its own tail, as in circular reasoning. The debate on abortion, for example, and many other public controversies as well, demonstrates spiral reasoning, where ongoing events continue to fuel new arguments which spiral around the issue without coming to a conclusion. The fact that there is no conclusion to a pattern should not invalidate it as a functional form of human reasoning. In MOO circles, there is a spiral pattern of reasoning around the question of text-only vs. graphical or multimedia MOO architectures, for example. New technical capabilities alter the terms of the discussion, but it seems that there will be no final resolution, even through accommodationist suggestions that "both kinds of MOOs are valuable." Such suggestions do not resolve the issue for any particular MOO or MUD, for example.

Interpersonal Reasoning

There is a pattern of reasoning I call interpersonal, where collective activity informs the process. Through interaction, negotiation, conflict, agreement, disagreement, and mutual exploration, human beings decide important (and not so important) issues every day. Our democratic process is based in this kind of reasoning, but so is my sister's method of calling all of her friends for their opinions when she is trying to decide some question, and so is the consensus process of reaching agreement. It is decidedly not a linear logical process, yet it has strength and value as a way of resolving many issues that will not yield to individualistic or hierarchical approaches. The "Rape in Cyberspace" issue on LambdaMOO generated large scale discussion and heated debates, "town meetings" and even scholarly studies. Ultimately the community of LambdaMOO was compelled to define itself through a complex process of negotiation, debate, and individual actions, as a society of democratic processes of petitions and ballots. It seemed to Julian Dibbell, writing about a discussion of the incident on LambdaMOO , that in the process "as the evening wore on and the talk grew more heated and more heady, it seemed increasingly clear that the vigorous intelligence being brought to bear on this swarm of issues wasn't going to result in anything remotely like resolution. The perspectives were just too varied, the meme-scape too slippery. Again and again, arguments that looked at first to be heading in a decisive direction ended up chasing their own tails; and slowly, depressingly, a dusty haze of irrelevance gathered over the proceedings." (Dibbell 1993) But in fact interpersonal patterns of reasoning often give this impression, because by their nature they are multivocal and dynamic, and come from diverse points of view. There are still possibilities for individual action, but the activity is an expression of the interactions, and that expression, too, has an impact on the group. The outcomes are generally situational, local, provisional, and may even seem inconclusive. The reasoning lies in the willingness to listen, to take into account such diverse positions, to wrestle publicly with fundamental issues of fairness, meaning, and power while recognizing that there may be no possibility of settling into "one right answer."

Story Reasoning

A different interactive reasoning pattern is "story." In this pattern a story structures the reasoning and produces the potential for multiple valid conclusions. Yet, these conclusions are not reached through the operations of linear logic; they are arrived at through the operations of the story structure (including such features as plot, atmosphere, character, and so on) and context. Imagine an example set in ancient times, when a hunter returns from the forest and tells a story that his companion was devoured by a wild beast the likes of which he had never seen before. An audience might conclude that everyone should keep out of the forest because of the danger from beasts. A different audience might conclude that a hunting party should be assembled to go into the forest and slay the beast, perhaps returning with meat for the village. Another audience might conclude that the hunter had murdered his companion in order to take over his wife and cattle.

Each of these conclusions represents valid interpretations, an impossibility under linear logic rules. This is because story logic does not proceed sequentially from initial premise to inevitable conclusion, nor is it presented as a "solution" to a problem. Instead, story is a microcosm of shared experience and imagination which lends itself to diverse interpretations. Rather than serving merely as "evidence" in support of linear logic operations, however, story functions as a "logic engine" of its own; each story launches its own operational rules and challenges the audience to co-construct them. Often the response of the audience is another story, perhaps amplifying or countering the original.

Story reasoning is not simply the domain of literature and folklore; it is one of the fundamental reasoning patterns among historians, anthropologists, economists, and other social scientists. It commonly occurs in the natural sciences as well, even in reports of experimental research. We have tended to discount the significance of story logic, probably because many widely-studied critical situations depend on arriving at and acting on a single interpretation: "The members of an aircraft crew, for example, must coordinate their actions with one another and with a single interpretation of the state of the environment even if some of them doubt the validity of the interpretation on which they are acting" (Hutchins 256). However, the MOO environment is not dependent on a single interpretation, it is much closer to a story world, subject to multiple plots, characters, scenes, dialogues, and actions unfolding with very different interpretations and resonances for participants.

Network Reasoning

Network reasoning proceeds by developing a web of associations. It may seem, in conventional terms, that this pattern does not really represent any kind of logic or reasoning at all. Building associations, however, is fundamental to understanding and reasoning. A physician confronts a patient and immediately begins to make connections among physical observations, textbook and journal information read earlier, knowledge from hands-on training as a resident, the patient's past history, data from various technologies such as thermometers and stethoscopes, pharmaceuticals and their effects, and so on in order to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan. An example of this pattern in popular culture is the film "Swimming to Cambodia," featuring a monologue of free associations by Spalding Gray. In online environments, hypertexts and hypermedia provide good examples of reasoning that is developed via a network or web pattern. The strength of this pattern is in the development of links or associations between different nodes, and in the richness of multiple connections and paths. This pattern underlies our familiar use of metaphor and analogy, both of which depend on associative reasoning. Despite the linear programming language which undergirds MOO space, a great deal of construction manifests network reasoning. The concepts of "spaces" which are linked by "exits," quests with multiple paths, and thematic MOOs and MUDs such as DragonMUD or PernMUSH depend on a network pattern of reasoning. Links and paths have different weights and resonances, giving hypermedia what Michael Joyce calls "contours." A link between a frontier Western town and a space station may be perfectly reasonable for the two students working on these projects who happen to be friends, and enjoy visiting each others' spaces. We might point out, though, that to "make sense" for other MOO participants, the link needs some mediating, perhaps through a two-way time machine, for example.

Architectural Reasoning

Much of the reasoning in MOOs follows what I call "architectural" reasoning. This pattern is based on meaningful spatial relationships and patterns of activity which they support. Alexander speaks of a "pattern language" in architecture, which creates and supports recurring patterns of activity. The flexibility of a pattern language means that there can be an unlimited variety of different configurations and constructions of a kitchen, but no matter how different they are, they are the site of recurring activities of food preparation. No matter now different they are, we can distinguish the kitchen from the other parts of the house, even when no food is being prepared.

In a MOO, spatial reasoning begins rather obviously with the fundamental MOO notion of constructing "rooms" and "exits." It holds that if you construct a room, it cannot be accessed until you create an exit from another room into it; if you want to return from it, you also need to create an exit back. Exits are one-way links. This fact can be used to structure sequential navigation, so that participants move along a path, or it can provide multiple possibilities for exploration. Too many possibilities create confusion: how many are too many? It depends on the logic of the space. Some paths can be locked in such a way that only certain people can follow them, or so that certain requirements must be met before they are even visible. One student who was a premed major constructed on our TinyMUSH AcademICK a simulation of the inside of the human body, which participants slipped into when they picked up a spoon. Once inside the body they could move from lungs to heart to hands, eyes, and brain, and on the journey they were subjected to the pounding of the pumping heart, the collapsing bellows of the lungs, the mysterious monitors, characters, and electrical surges of the nervous system from the "command center" of the brain. The reasoning behind situating spaces within larger regions and in relation to other spaces is also significant here.

Fractal Reasoning

Fractals are one of the most interesting patterns of human reasoning, and the one with the most exciting potential for future research. Fractals exhibit some very interesting properties: their patterns are regular but not predictable; they replicate their characteristic pattern at every level, from micro to macro; and they can originate from very simple rules yet develop incredible complexity. While they seem chaotic, they also display a kind of orderliness. And there is a complexity to their very dimensionality: while they may appear on a flat surface, they map onto more than two dimensions, such that mathematicians have had to develop the concept of fractional dimensions to deal with them.

How does human reasoning follow fractal patterns? Consider the process of deciding to marry someone, the variations on ways of organizing an office, the logic pattern of deciding on a career, voting in an election, or taking a vacation. Can anyone seriously argue for a linear pattern of reasoning in such situations? Indeed, can anyone predict the pattern of logic a particular person will follow when dealing with any one of these situations? Yet we can see that each person does have a distinctive pattern of reasoning, and that this pattern is replicated from the tiniest decision to the largest life-changing issues. In everyday observations, we can see fractal patterns of reasoning at every scale, from the momentary choice of an individual deciding where to have lunch to enduring global structures such as economies, political systems, and so on.

In MOO spaces, fractal reasoning structures the congruence between large-scale and smaller-scale effects. A Western town has a saloon, and in the saloon are representative objects, and often puppet characters. Different composers might put different objects and characters into a "western saloon," with different properties and messages, but the pattern language of the "western town" provides a structuring grammar for these objects which reflects motifs at both large and small scale. It is more likely, for instance, that the bartender puppet will say "howdy, pardner," than "beam me up Scotty." In MOOs we can observe much about the fractal patterns typical of reasoning in ecological systems. Students demonstrate these patterns through the process of construction, interaction, and movement in MOOs; they are evident in conventional settings as well, but we have typically overlooked them or failed to recognize them.

Learning and Reasoning

I've observed many instances of these patterns in my students' work in MOOs and MUDs. It may be the case, in fact, that these environments ultimately provide one of the greatest challenges to our thinking about logic, reasoning, and knowledge representation. Lessons are learned in MOOs that have never appeared in any lesson plan or syllabus, and that cannot be articulated in conventional logical terms. They are lessons of spatial reasoning that result from the dynamic interdependence of experience, exploration, interaction, conversation, setting, and narrative.

In MOO spaces, information is not only displayed in static array, as in a museum or library; it is dynamic, interactive, and developmental. Students who build in MOO space develop an environmental approach to information, a different experience from simply seeking out information and treating it as an artifact to be plugged into the fixed structure of a paper or argument. These students are instead inhabiting a world composed of information, in which they are creators and transformers, active characters and careful observers, manipulators and explorers. They are using information to reason in multiple ways in this environment; because we are able to use the environment itself to observe these patterns, we may discover new perspectives on human reasoning that extend to conventional situations as well.

Reasoning and Programming in MOO

Programming in MOOs is cumbersome, arcane, and baffling for those who have no experience with computer programming. Command sequences invoked for simple tasks such as creating a verb or a message associated with an object are difficult to understand and nearly impossible to remember. Students spend hours accessing help files, often repeatedly for the same process. Part of the difficulty lies in the cumbersome interface, which automatically scrolls text away from readers, and presents readers with large chunks of undifferentiated text which makes it hard to locate the information they are looking for.

I am not convinced that providing help files or editors in a separate window will resolve all of the problems associated with programming in MOOs. Part of the problem lies in the rigidly linear, sequential, and unforgiving nature of MOO programming, which does not map well onto human patterns of reasoning. The object-oriented nature of MOO programming attempts to address some of these difficulties by making objects inheritable. But again and again students are frustrated by the need to adapt their own reasoning processes to the unyielding structure of MOO programming logic. The intersection of the purely technical with the creative and social dimensions of MOO spaces creates tensions which so far have had to be resolved in terms of what the technical affordances will permit.

In practical terms, it is difficult to propose a purely technical solution; it is clear that the difficulties cannot be resolved solely by technical innovations in programming languages, operating systems, software, hardware, or networks. A great deal of energy is already being expended on technical improvements and developments. We still cannot draw on the wall of a MOO space, or play a musical instrument in an orchestra, or have a soccer match between two schools, grow some flowers, or do any number of trivially simple things for which the logic is non-programmatic. Yet, these environments have the potential for much richer exploration of the dynamics of human learning and reasoning, creativity and interaction than we have yet realized. The stunning representations of "fly-through" information architectures constructed by Muriel Cooper and David Small at MIT's Visual Language Workshop (Bradford 1996), for example, offer powerful possibilities for MOO development.

We need research on reasoning in a wide variety of occurrences, particularly "in the wild" as Hutchins puts it, in order to further develop these environments into the kinds of information ecosystems that can nourish and sustain the life of the mind, both individually and collectively. We need to bring together existing work from cognitive science, anthropology, design, rhetoric and composition, computer science, mathematics, the humanities, arts, and sciences. This is a large-scale endeavor, because we need to account for and support a wide range of practices, habits of mind, and thought styles in order to develop environments which are rich enough to sustain multiple possibilities for creating, transforming, and interacting.


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Alexander, C. (1979). The Timeless Way of Building. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bradford, P. (Ed.). (1996). Information Architects. Zurich: Graphis Press.

Corbett, E. P. J. (1971). Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dibbell, J. (1993). A Rape in Cyberspace. The Village Voice (December 21), 36-42.

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by Expanding: An Activity-Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit Oy.

Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the Wild: MIT Press.

Mullet, K., & Sano, D. (1995). Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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Wurman, R. S. (1989). Information Anxiety: What to Do When Information Doesn't Tell You What You Need to Know. New York: Bantam Books.

Author's Biography

Margaret Syverson is the Associate Director of the Computer Writing and Research Lab in the Division of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation research, conducted at the University of California, San Diego, focused on the application of complex systems theories and distributed cognition in composition studies. The dissertation, The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition, received two national awards and is currently in press at Southern Illinois University Press. She is Chair of the Board of Directors for the Center for Language in Learning, and Editor of Computers and Composition Journal's online site. Her work on evaluating learning in MOOs and MUDs has been supported through a CAETI grant.