Understanding New Media

                In Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace” he discusses the impact of virtual rape of two women in a text-only virtual reality. In real life if a woman gets raped there are serious consequences for the rapist, but there are no guidelines in punishment of a virtual rape. This is a special case and the action should be considered when discussing punishment of the rapist. The action committed against these women was not displayed on avatars, but written in this text-only virtual community for all other members to see. What made the action so despicable was how seriously the members of this community took their interaction and the behavior of others. Rape carries a significant connotation that I’m not sure is appropriate for what happened to the women – perhaps the world should be virtual assault, or just assault. The women’s bodies were not harmed, although they did feel the same humiliation that a rape victim might feel. But the good thing is that even if they felt violated, it was not something that might wake them from sleep for years to come, or prevent them from having relationships in the future. I do not contend that the actions were acceptable, but we must put the actions into context. The only real way to punish a rape in cyberspace would be to ban the offender from the community, or virtually beat him up. Two wrongs do not make a right, but the rules of cyberspace are different, and maybe a public lashing might humiliate him the way he humiliated the women.

                Douglas Thomas’s “Hacker Culture” shed some light on the ways of hackers, and actually brought some light to the mysterious cultural phenomenon. Most people think of hacker and only have movies to relate to the idea, but Thomas showed that hackers – at least some – started out with good intentions. Privacy on the internet is being debated right now, and the only people who get to make decisions about privacy have too much power to really consider what would be good for the general public. While I do believe in privacy, my feelings about encryption have changed as I thought about the world we live in today. (I hate to say this, but…) Terrorists throughout the world and within this country have to communicate with each other. If software was available that made unbreakable encryption available to anyone terrorists would probably use this technology against us. Hackers have brought up ideas about  internet rules and to whom they apply, ideas that are very valid and deserve attention. If a person can brake into the database of a military institution then stronger protection must be created. If no one tested the strength of the systems in place to protect information, then it probably would not be where it is today.

Analysis 10 (Lisa Leonard)

When reading Julian Dibbell’s “Rape in the Cyberspace”, I was astonished. I would have never thought that rape could happen in a virtual community. When I think of online communities, I think of networking. I would have never thought of others trying to still violate others. When I read the article, I was very upset, emotional, and angry all at once. No physical harm was done, but you still feel the after effects because someone was still violated. It just angers me because no action was taken. When we discussed this ordeal in class, I definitely agree that since the person can’t get arrested; he should at least be marked online. People should know that he committed a crime, even if it was in a virtual community.
This is still a form of emotional abuse. Damage was still done to an individual. This is when online freedom gets pushed to an extreme. Now I agree that there should be restrictions on websites because people always find a way to bring harm to others. If we can help to protect others, then we should. There is a thin line between reality and virtual reality. It isn’t hard to mix the two. I can only go off of other’s reactions though because I, myself do not participate in cyberspace much. I believe any kind of rape is a serious matter and the person should be charged the same. The victim will never be the same.

Through many topics covered in the class during this semester, the ones relating to cybernetics, web communities, gaming culture and hacker culture were the hardest to relate to. I didn’t know much about niether of those topics, which is why it great it was covered in this course. 

When reading Rape in the Cyberspace my initial reaction was shock. In class the we discussed whether the action should be punished, and if yes, then where and how? I believe that the action should be taken against the rapist within the community that the crime took place. The punishment could be removal of the rapist from the community or putting a permanent mark on the rapist that would inform others of the criminal action that he performed on another community members.   

Even though many may say that no physical harm was done to anyone, we never know whats happening in the mind of the person sitting behind the computer. It is possible that he is reenacting his fantasies in the Internet community, where he thinks its safe. If it is excitement that he is looking for the Internet may not be enough soon, real life may be next step.

Natasha K
I have always found hacking intriguing, and after our class discussion on hacking culture I am even more so intrigued, and a little frightened. My first encounter with understanding the nature of hackers was through the film “Hackers”. Due to the movies content my interest was definitely peaked. The movie made hacking seem so exciting, I realize it was a Hollywood film and that its point was to entertain. However, the movie was fun. Most people view hackers as computer geeks and nerd. However nowadays with everyone becoming so technological savvy we no longer have stereotypical types of hacker. Hackers either hack for the fun of it, to gain notoriety, sometimes for personal gain, and sometimes to cause harm to people. There was an example in one of our class discussions that sits with me uneasy regarding hacking, the example was that a group hacked into the page for epileptic site and put a strobe light on there front page which triggers epileptic seizures, this is a type of hacking that the public should be concerned with since it would cause harm. The fact that we are living in a post 9-11era, makes hackers seem scary, since there are people out there who hack to gather information and use it maliciously. Since our culture is in the process of moving everything online where it can so easily be hacked, it is a continual battle to fight to protect our information, which I believe is our right.

Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace” is unbelievable! The implications include feeling emotional as if the act had been physically committed and feeling angry since you can’t slap the heck out of the person who did it.  It is amazing how people put so much effort into affecting others in such a negative way and how damaging it can be without even being physical.  This should certainly not be allowed and should be punished since it is a form of mental abuse and harassment, which would certainly not be tolerated in public as a form of freedom of speech.  It’s sick in my opinion and is a way to identify persons with issues who may cause harm to others physically.  There certainly has to be some form of online community responsible for monitoring online interaction.  How long does it take to prosecute someone who does this?   

People think that when real reality spills over into virtual reality, all decency and respect can be lost.  I do not participate in cyber worlds, therefore I cannot fully relate to  these people. But some individuals actuality do take virtual realities very seriously. In “A Rape In Cyberspace”, several acts of non-consensual violent sexual activity occurred. Although I believe that a virtual rape is not as serious as a real rape, it still brings up some questions. Why would this person choose to do such a thing? Are these their unconscious desires? Or should we just dismiss this as a ridiculous matter? Even though this act occurred in a cyber world, I can see how it would be disrespectful and hurtful. It is a violation of your identity.

In regards to hacker culture,  I always thought that hackers were these immoral, horrible people that sought to destroy and cause harm.  They were this underground society of super-smart men that knew how to evade the law and work their way around secure systems.  This is mostly seen in movies.  In reality however, I learned that not all hackers share the same philosophy and profile.  “In other words, hackers move between genres, changing moral registers the way a multilingual speaker switches from one language to another” (258). Some are really out there to cause harm- by stealing passwords, identities and such- and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. But hackers for the most part are just enjoying their freedom of speech rights as I read in “Hacker Practice”. Hackers can just hack websites to add something to it, or to make a point by being humorous or sarcastic. In the reading, the author discusses that hackers are seen as either bad or good. Not all hackers are doing bad things, but I dont necessarily think they are good people either who advocate for rights and public well-being. Sometimes hackers just want to hack for the fun of it and this isnt  necessarily a ‘good’ thing. Or very rarely, hackers can trespass a system to learn its secrets and then disseminate this information, which may be a ‘good’ deed?

Having recently seen the documentaries The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Monster Camp, I think I’m beginning to get a better understanding of just how dedicated and heavily invested some gamers truly are to their respective games.  Before, I don’t think it was something that completely resonated with me because I’ve never been much of a gamer myself.  However, on retrospect, I remember the excitement and thrill of first playing games like Super Mario Bros., Guitar Hero, and Mario Kart, and how they partially consumed my life and thoughts for some time when I was younger.

I bring this up in the discussion of Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace” because at first, there was some element about the reading that I found rather alienating.  Most of the time, I think I can shrug off the things I encounter on the Internet.  However, I think with the issues of cyber bullying and, in this case, cyber “rape” seeping into the mainstream of society, I definitely find that there is relevance in Dibbell’s article to today’s world.  For many, the Internet can seem to be rather intangible, thereby giving people reason to attack others without feeling directly responsible.

The case of LambdaMOO in Dibbell’s article is just an example of how people misuse technology, a perpetual downside to the development and advancement of technology.  It’s nothing new—no matter what the original purpose of a device is, there are those that will find a way to use the technology as a weapon.  And, as in the reading, the people that Dibbell describes are very emotionally invested in the LambdaMOO community.  It is an extension of themselves and their lives, something that they probably cannot separate from each other.  With cyber bullying on the rise these days, Dibbell’s article just seems increasingly more relevant and even ahead of its time.  The emotional connection that people have in these virtual spaces can grow to be rather strong, and when others disrupt these spaces, people view it as a serious crime.

“Since rape can occur without any physical pain or damage, I found myself reasoning, then it must be classed as a crime against the mind—more intimately and deeply hurtful…” This quote from Julian Dibbell’s A Rape in Cyberspace tells us that rape can be defined not physically but mentally. A crime such as rape shouldn’t go unpunished, even if it occurs in a virtual community. A crime was committed in the virtual community LambdaMOO. A user by the name of Bungle rapped other members of the community that caused them pain and humiliation in the community. Bungle’s actions were violent and he didn’t think he was wrong and laughed evilly in the living room, where he committed the act. There’s a limit of what one can or can’t do in virtual reality. Not only rape, but any violent act shouldn’t be committed. Although you are trying to escape reality, you don’t have to act violent to gain superiority or experience something new. Dibbell states that there should be justice for making such an atrocity act and should be treated as if it occurred in real life by holding a trial or a court hearing. Virtual realities are created so that one can escape the real world and to be someone different or the same. But just because you’re in another reality, doesn’t mean any wrongdoing should be done or even if it does, go unpunished. Bungle was to be toaded off by other wizards and users in the community for displaying an act of violence. It was almost like a trial, with players gathering in a discussion forum and arguing about the matter. However, Bungle couldn’t be toaded because the system had no rules against rape or anything at all. Bungle’s unpunished act seemed wrong and unfair. This was a bad example that could let others commit the same act as Bungle and it would be chaos. Like what Dibbell stated, rapists were assholes as well as others who make violent acts. Defensive software tools were deployed to keep violence away. It was a simple and effective way to block asshole’s statements. Even if you don’t physically experience the act, it doesn’t mean it won’t emotionally hurt you. Just like if you are having a conversation with your boy/girl friend and he/she wants to break up with you. You might start breaking down and ask why and stuff or you can immediately call him/her. It’s the same because they are not telling you in front of you but hearing the news or even reading it, you can get emotional. Virtual realities are also a way to act out your fantasies and sometimes it can go too far that it might end up being the real deal. Some can have the urge to try to experience it in real life after committing it in a virtual community. If one goes unpunished, others would tend to follow and they will keep doing it for their own enjoyment.

     Still, a cyberspace like LambdaMoo introduced in Dibbell’s article is not well-known and not utilized by most people. However, as a number of Internet users and their time spending online are sharply increasing, virtual communities are rising in a variety of forms. Avatars are used in virtual communities to represent one, but since it is controlled by real people in real life, problems and crimes occur in virtual life.

     In Dibbell’s article, A Rape in Cyberspace, a crime of rapping in LambdaMoo is introduced to bring up ethics issue in a virtual community. Mr. Bungle forcefully raped a female avatar named “legaba,” using voodoo doll. After a while, he left his voodoo doll in the room and raped another female avatar named “Starsinger” by controlling the doll outside. This accident brought up discussions among avatars in LambdaMoo society and made aware of needs for social rules in a virtual community.

     Second life comes to some people as a serious matter even though the community is in a virtual space. As I brought up in class about a mad Japanese woman who killed his ex-husband’s avatar in a virtual community, second life in a virtual community affects in real life. The users of avatars that are raped by Mr. Bungle might have problems in second life and real life after the accident. Thus, crimes and problems that occur in second life can affect people who control avatars in real life.  Although it does not physically harm people in a virtual community, it mentally affects them and possibly influences negative impact in real life as well.

     Increasing number of people participates in a virtual community in a degree, and from crimes to abuses happening in a second life affects the user’s real life. Hence, certain law and rules in real life have to be adopted in virtual communities to regulate violent actions that influence the user.


- Junha Hwang