[-empyre-] list growing

About 3 years ago, when I was thinking of starting this list, Jordan
Crandall told me that running a good list was like hosting a good dinner
party.  This was the best piece of advice I've ever been given as it
extrapolated on my experience as the author of the 3D multi-user virtual
spaces, in that you can a build a space and just leave it there for
something to happen randomly, or you can assist in developing it.  Setting
up the list for me involved providing an environment conducive to social
interaction, inviting initially 50 diverse people to join and introducing
them to each other, ensuring they feel comfortable and safe, enthusing them
with juicy theoretical, emotional aesthetic and critical topics.

So  -empyre- is a piece of considered virtual social engineering, designed
as a platform to present a range of works, texts and concepts in a friendly
research  environment. Guests range from people who do interesting and
challenging work which isn't always well know; well established and well
represented practitioners and writers, those who are just emerging, to those
who are brilliant but only recognised in their specific niche. -empyre-
seeks to be inclusive of those whose first language isn't English, and has a
policy of  incorporating guests and issues from outside the US-European
media Arts Axis.  -empyre- endeavours  to not  build hierarchies of any one
form of media over another, or the opinion of any one poster or group over
another by moving to a fresh topic monthly.  Within this structural
container a cohesive functional networked social life-form has been born,
attracting many new members randomly, and true to AI principles, -empyre-'s
whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

-empyre- is now facilitated with Christina McPhee and Michael Arnold Mages
(US), Jim Andrews (Canada) and Felix Sattler (Germany), all of whom input an
abundance of knowledge and skill to the growing list  organism, and I am
speaking personally ratherthan for the group in this as they all will have a
different take on it ..
However I believe we have a responsibility when creating a public space, and
inviting people into that space to see that etiquette, ethics, structure and
lack of hierarchy are maintained, and  I am interested in pursuing some
self-reflexivity on my own role as facilitator.

I did not want to use text, or the voice of the facilitator or list
administration as a way to steer or regulate discussion. For a while I
invented another persona from which to ask questions, pose provocations, put
forward contradictory or humorous positions, or say something very
politically incorrect which a facilitator could never get away with. But I
kept forgetting the personas password and eventually gave it up, opting to
just post from my own "melinda" address. I m not quiet comfortable with this
as I think having multiple roles and multiple functions doesn't always work.
I guess its the same dilemma faced by those in the class room of assuming a
role to draw a diversity of opinion  from a group.

I find now that I am often posting something as facilitator where I put
forward a position that I personally would never hold, but its one that I
think needs to be included into the dialogue. It feels weird that im playing
devils advocate often, yet I continue to do it.
 Is it control or  laziness?
Should I stop imposing conflicting opinions onto the list and retreat again
behind the anonynimity of an assumed persona, rather than confuse the
facilitator role and my personal identity?  Perhaps I could abandon all
interaction and just find guests and read from the sidelines? I'm not sure.
This discussion may make it clearer to me.

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