“LitMUSE” began its life as a text-based virtual reality, back in the early days of the Internet. In fact, “MUSE” is an acronym that stands for “Multi-User Simulated Environment.” LitMUSE was first and foremost a MOO: an online community of users that interacted in a virtual reality that they constructed through language.
Add “Lit” as a double meaning — “literature” and “literacy,” since both are necessary components of an education in English. Put them together, and LitMUSE becomes a community of learners involved in constructing their shared virtual reality.
In a crucial way, what the users of LitMUSE did virtually reflects what we as citizens of the world do in reality. LitMUSE, then, becomes a metaphor for what’s important in human community and the liberal arts education. Language and discourse construct how we participate in and construct our realities in relation to our environment and those we share it with. Language is crucial to who we are, and it remains integral to higher education.
While the text-based virtual reality no longer exists, its legacy lives on. LitMUSE still reflects community and cultural literacy. These ideas provide the foundation of a liberal arts education and are even more important in this technology-rich, information-driven, multi-tasking, strangely connected world.