Amy Bruckman's Papers

(This page is in the process of being reformatted.)

Thanks for your interest in my work! A number of my papers are available online. In chronological order:

You might also be interested in workshops and conferences I've organized:


  • Community Support for Constructionist Learning

  • Published in Computer Supported Cooperative Work 7:47-86, 1998.

    MOOSE Crossing is a text-based virtual reality environment (or "MUD") designed to be a constructionist learning environment for children ages eight to thirteen. The constructionist philosophy of education argues that learning through designing and constructing personally meaningful projects is better than learning by being told. Children on MOOSE Crossing learn computer programming and improve their reading and writing by working on self-selected projects in a self-motivated, peer-supported fashion. In experience with over 180 children and 90 adults using the system since October 1995, we have found that the community provide community provides role models; situated, ubiquitous project models; emotional support to overcome technophobia; technical support; and an appreciative audience for completed work. This paper examines the nature of that support in detail, and argues that community support for learning is an essential element in collaborative work and learning on the Internet.s essential support for the children

    Available in HTML.
  • MOOSE Goes to School: A Comparison of Three Classrooms Using a CSCL Environment

  • Proceedings of CSCL 97, Toronto, December 1997.

    MOOSE Crossing is a text-based virtual reality environment (or "MUD") designed to give children eight to thirteen years old a meaningful context for learning reading, writing, and computer programming. It is used from home, in after-school programs, and increasingly as an in-school activity. To date, it has been used in five classrooms. This paper compares its use in three of those classrooms, and analyzes factors that made use of MOOSE Crossing more and less successful in each of these contexts. Issues highlighted include access to computers, existence of peer experts, free-form versus structured activity, and school atmosphere.

    Available in HTML and postscript.
    In Interactions:
  • Pianos, Not Stereos Creating Computational Construction Kits

  • With Mitchel Resnick and Fred Martin.


    Would you rather that your children learn to play the piano, or learn to play the stereo?

    The stereo has many attractions: it is easier to play and it provides immediate access to a wide range of music. But "ease of use" should not be the only criterion. Playing the piano can be a much richer experience. By learning to play the piano, you can become a creator (not just a consumer) of music, expressing yourself musically in ever-more complex ways. As a result, you can develop a much deeper relationship with (and deeper understanding of) music.

    So too with computers. In the field of educational technology, there has been too much emphasis on the equivalent of stereos and CDs, and not enough emphasis on computational pianos. In our research group at the MIT Media Lab, we are developing a new generation of "computational construction kits" that, like pianos, enable people to express themselves in ever-more complex ways, deepening their relationships with new domains of knowledge.

    To guide the development of these computational construction kits, we are developing a theory of "constructional design." Whereas the traditional field of instructional design focuses on strategies and materials to help teachers instruct, our theory of constructional design focuses on strategies and materials to help students construct and learn. Constructional design is a type of meta-design: it involves the design of new tools and activities to support students in their own design activities. In short, constructional design involves designing for designers (Resnick, 1996b).

    Appeared in Interactionsvol. 3, no. 6 (September/October 1996). Available in HTML.
    At The Getty Art History Information Program:

    Cyberspace is not Disneyland. It's not a polished, perfect place built by professional designers for the public to obediently wait on line to passively experience. It's more like a finger-painting party. Everyone is making things, there's paint everywhere, and most work only a parent would love. Here and there, works emerge that most people would agree are achievements of note. The rich variety of work reflects the diversity of participants. And everyone would agree, the creative process and the ability for self expression matter more than the product.

    In Technology Review:
    In the Journal Convergence:

    The MediaMOO Project: Constructionism and Professional Community

    With Mitchel Resnick. Convergence 1:1, pp 94-109, Spring 1995.

    MediaMOO is a text-based, networked, virtual reality environment designed to enhance professional community among media researchers. MediaMOO officially opened on January, 20th, 1993, and as of December 1994 has more than 1000 members from 29 countries. An application is required to join, and only those actively engaged in media research are admitted.

    Unlike many virtual environments, the world of MediaMOO is continuously being constructed and reconstructed by its members. This paper analyzes experience with the system to date, and highlights the importance of "constructionist" principles in virtual reality design. The philosophy of constructionism argues that people learn with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful projects; learning by doing is better than learning by being told. This approach is most often applied to children's learning. We believe that not enough attention is paid to its broader applicability. We have found that letting the users build a virtual world rather than merely interact with a pre-designed world gives them an opportunity for self expression, encourages diversity, and leads to a meaningful engagement of participants and enhanced sense of community.

    Available in HTML, postscript, rtf, and plain text.

    Approaches To Managing Deviant Behavior In Virtual Communities

    Panel Discussion presented at CHI 94 in Boston, MA, April 1994. Organizer and panelist: Amy Bruckman. Panelists: Pavel Curtis, Cliff Figallo. Moderator: Brenda Laurel. Proceedings of CHI, 1994 (Boston, MA, April 24-April 27, 1994). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 1994.

    It is an unfortunate fact of life that where there are multi-user computer systems, there will be antisocial behavior. On bulletin board systems (BBSs), there are those who persist in being obscene, harassing, and libelous. In virtual worlds such as MUDs, there are problems of theft, vandalism, and virtual rape.

    Behavior is "deviant" if it is not in accordance with community standards. How are such standards developed? Should standards be established by system administrators and accepted as a condition of participation, or should they be developed by community members? Once a particular person's behavior is deemed unacceptable, what steps should be taken? Should such steps be taken by individuals, such as "filters" or "kill" files on BBSs, and "gagging" or "ignoring" on MUDs? Or should the administrators take action, banning an individual from the system or censoring their postings? What is the appropriate balance between centralized and decentralized solutions?

    Gags and filters are computational solutions to deviant behavior. Are there appropriate social solutions? How effective are approaches like feedback from peers, community forums, and heart-to-heart chats with sympathetic system administrators? Are different approaches effective with communities of different sizes? What is the appropriate balance between social and technological solutions?

    Available in
    postscript, rtf, and plain text.

    Programming For Fun: Muds As A Context For Collaborative Learning.

    Presented at the National Educational Computing Conference in Boston, MA, June 1994.

    In text-based virtual reality environments on the Internet called "MUDs," participants meet people from all over the world. They can not only explore the virtual world, but extend it, creating new objects and places. MUDs are Constructionist environments in which people build personally meaningful artifacts. But unlike many Constructionist environments, MUDs place special emphasis on collaboration, encouraging construction within a social setting.

    This paper presents a case study of the experiences of a 43-year-old building contractor named Jim. It is one of an ongoing series of interviews I have conducted with people who learned to program for the first time in a MUD called MediaMOO. Salient features of their learning experiences include ease of collaboration, availability of technical assistance from peers, playfulness, availability of an audience for completed work, and community spirit. The success of MUDs as a learning environment for adults points to its potential as a learning environment for children.

    Available in
    postscript, rtf, and plain text.

    Gender Swapping On The Internet

    Proceedings of INET '93. Reston, VA: The Internet Society, 1993. Presented at The Internet Society (INET '93) in San Fransisco, California in August, 1993.

    In text-based virtual reality environments on the Internet called MUDs, it is possible to pretend to be the opposite gender. In these virtual worlds, the way gender structures basic human interaction is often noticed and reflected upon. This paper introduces MUDs, and then presents a community discussion about gender issues that MUDs inspired. Gender swapping is one example of ways in which network technology can impact not just work practice but also culture and values.

    Available in
    postscript and plain text.

    Identity Workshop: Emergent Social And Psychological Phenomena In Text-Based Virtual Reality

    This survey paper introduces the different kinds of MUDs, and social phenomena typical of each kind. It introduces issues of representations of self and how MUDs form a kind of "identity workshop." Introduces the notion of MUDs as an evocative medium--by being between reality and unreality, MUDs often encourage people to reflect on the nature of reality. Introduces gender issues that arise in MUDs, and explores the topic of MUD addiction. April 1992.

    Available in postscript and rtf formats.

    This paper is too heavily formatted to make a plain text version. If you send a self-addressed envelope to my address, then I will send you a paper copy. Send an envelope big enough for a 23-page document (46 pages double-sided). I'll supply the postage.

    The Electronic Scrapbook: Towards An Intelligent Home-Video Editing System

    Master's thesis, completed in the Interactive Cinema Group at the MIT Media Lab, September 1991.

    How many people's home videos remain unedited and unwatched? Home video is a growing cultural phenomenon; however, few consumers have the time, equipment, and skills needed to edit their work. The Electronic Scrapbook is an environment designed to encourage people to use home video as a creative medium. The system and the user collaborate to create home-video stories.

    This work addresses issues of knowledge representation and interface design. Semantic knowledge representation is evaluated as a way to represent information about complex, temporal media. A modified form of case-based reasoning, "knowledge-based templates," is used to explore what a computational model of a home-video story might be. September 1991.

    Available online in thirteen postscript files, "" through "",

    If you can't read postscript and would like a hardcopy, send me a self-addressed envelope big enough for a 45-page document (90 pages double-sided) to my address. I'll supply the postage.

    My address is:
    Amy Bruckman
    College of Computing
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Atlanta, GA 30332

    Enjoy! Comments are welcome via electronic mail. My address is:
    -- Amy Bruckman