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Unformatted text preview: A Rape in Cyberspace (Or TINYSOCIETY, and How to Make One) http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html Chapter One of Julian Dibbell's My Tiny Life, 1998. (First published in somewhat different form in The Village Voice, December 1993.) They say he raped them that night. They say he did it with a cunning little doll, fashioned in their image and imbued with the power to make them do whatever he desired. They say that by manipulating the doll he forced them to have sex with him, and with each other, and to do horrible, brutal things to their own bodies. And though I wasn't there that night, I think I can assure you that what they say is true, because it all happened right in the living room -- right there amid the well-stocked bookcases and the sofas and the fireplace -- of a house I came later to think of as my second home. Call me Dr. Bombay. A good many months ago -- let's say about halfway between the first time you heard the words information superhighway and the first time you wished you never had -- I found myself tripping now and then down the well-traveled information lane that leads to LambdaMOO, a very large and very busy rustic mansion built entirely of words. On the occasional free evening I'd sit down in my New York City apartment and type the commands that called those words onto my computer screen, dropping me with what seemed a warm electric thud inside the house's darkened coat closet, where I checked my quotidian identity, stepped into the persona and appearance of a minor character from a long- gone television sitcom, and stepped out into the glaring chatter of the crowded living room. Sometimes, when the mood struck me, I emerged as a dolphin instead. I won't say why I chose to masquerade as Samantha Stephens's outlandish cousin, or as the dolphin, or what first led me into the semifictional digital otherworlds known around the Internet as multi-user dimensions, or MUDs. This isn't quite my story yet. It's the story, for now, of an elusive congeries of flesh and bytes named Mr. Bungle, and of the ghostly sexual violence he committed in the halls of LambdaMOO, and most importantly of the ways his violence and his victims challenged the thousand and more residents of that surreal, magic-infested mansion to become, finally, the community so many of them already believed they were. That I was myself already known to wander the mansion grounds from time to time has little direct bearing on the story's events. I mention it only as a warning that my own perspective may be, at this late date, too steeped in the surreality and magic of the place to serve as an altogether appropriate guide. For the Bungle Affair raises questions that -- here on the brink of a future in which human existence may find itself as tightly enveloped in digital environments as it is today in the architectural kind -- demand a clear-eyed, sober, and unmystified consideration. It asks us to shut our ears for the time being to techno- utopian ecstasies and look without illusion upon the...
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- Spring '08