PLATO was a fascinating, pioneering online learning system developed at the University of Illinois.
Alongside course materials, it originated complex multiplayer online games, chat, & collaboration tools, rendered on 512x512 touchscreen plasma displays--in the 1970s.
Brian Dear's "The Friendly Orange Glow" is the (thus far) definitive history of the system, based on decades of research. It took me a while to make my way through the 640 page tome, but here's my review:
I'd seen PLATO mentioned in histories of online communities before (probably in Howard Rheingold's book) but those all seemed like technohagiographies of fusty old systems long gone whose users had all moved on. I was never really so interested in learning more about it until seeing Rankin's talk.
I should know better by now than to be surprised that a talk like that could draw such an awful, professionally costly negative response. I had no idea until your review that it had.
Yes. I don't agree entirely with Rankin's reading of the facts (and in other cases I don't think she's backed up her assertions sufficiently) but Dear's response was, at least in parts, vitriolic, triggering an entirely avoidable downwards spiral. The kind of work Rankin is doing is important to contextualize these historical communities and I hope we'll see more such scholarship.
do you mean in her talk? Or have you read her book, too?
if only the talk, it seems a repeat of one of Dear's errors, going hammer-and-tongs after a work-in-progress presentation.
I have the "People's History" book here as well, and it repeats some of those same assertions (happy to elaborate but not at toot length limits :).
But I certainly agree that Dear's aggressive response crossed several lines, which far overshadowed the substance of his arguments, such as it is.
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