Art from 1s and 0s

If you read reports on why people are no longer attending arts events, inevitably television, video games and computers will be mentioned.

What isn’t mentioned is that there is sort of a conservation of creative energy going on over the internet. Even though people are online more, there is a creative itch that they seem to need to scratch. Take for example the MUD Achaea (FAQ on MUDS here). They are a text based mud meaning no graphics are provided over the screen–all the colors, textures, etc are created within the player’s mind from the description presented.

However, for the past 5-6 years they have held monthly artisianal and bardic contests where players create visual representations of life in this text based game or songs/stories/poems reflecting the same. Considering that they also award runners up and merit awards, that is a fair bit of art being created to give tribute to an imaginary world.

Even more–they have a sophicated mechanism that allows players to create their own plays in game on a stage in one of the towns. It even goes so far as to allow you to set ticket prices, reserve private boxes, build sets and costumes and employ special effects.

This can give some hints as to the direction technology and theatre may be headed together.

Using MUDs for something other than entertainment has long been contemplated as seen in this paper on their use in education written a decade ago.

And the theatre world has been using a form of MUDs called MOOs to hold meeting and forum for almost as long. The Association of Theatre in Higher Education created ATHE MOO to provide opportunities for discussion and debate to those who couldn’t attend their annual conferences.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment