I have made use of this or its influential ancestor article in a few courses that I have taught over the past decade or so and, after a long period of forgetting about it, have done so again recently. Rereading it again, I was as affected by it now as much as I was the first time I read it. Though it relates to events that occurred in the largely superseded technology of the MOO, Dibbell’s detailed descriptions and rich reflections are as relevant in an era of social networks, MMORPGs, Q&A sites, web forums and immersive worlds as they were when he first wrote them. Maybe more so.
It’s a long, harrowing, but rewarding read, not for the easily offended, unravelling the unpleasant story of Mr Bungle and his reincarnation as Dr Jest, the things he did to other characters in the MOO, and the responses of the other inhabitants of the MOO to ‘him’ (I may give away too much with those quotes). It challenges notions of identity, self, and the nature of human engagement as well as offering a fascinating meditation on ethics, consensus and social contracts in both meat-space and cyber-space. No unequivocal answers, but many challenging questions. The denouement that was not there in the original piece is worth waiting for, and makes the whole episode even more ugly and even more thought-provoking than it appears from the start.
Address of the bookmark: http://www.juliandibbell.com/articles/a-rape-in-cyberspace/