In a “Tinysociety” lived people from across the nation that worked together to escape reality. The use of this tiny society was through a program called LambdaMOO. Within this virtual world, people had the ability to illustrate themselves as they wanted and become any person they wanted to be without affects on the real world. Where does the real world and virtual reality collide though? In Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace,” the author examines the crimes of Mr. Bungle and Dr. Jest to uncover the truth about societies.
Within LambdaMOO, many users believed they could finally create a sustainable world where they are genuinely happy and excited to go to. As there could be troubles in the real world, as soon as the user logs into their character, they become that character. I knew a guy named Mason who struggled a lot with social interaction. He was socially awkward in some aspects and didn’t truly enjoy the human interaction that he encountered at school. He was different and was judged on his appearance. He told me almost every day that he was so excited to get home and play World of Warcraft because he could finally be around people that liked him for him. Not only did his online friends share a common interest, but they had no way of judging him based on appearance. On top of that, the socially awkward comments were less likely to accumulate because he felt comfortable typing instead of confrontation. With societies like LambdaMOO, the users have the same ability to build themselves the way they want to and not be judged based on appearances or social anxiety.
The downfall that comes with these virtual societies is that they can be easily interrupted by the same mean people that are faced in the real world. In Dibbell’s piece, an incident that has been titled as “rape” invades the privacy and civility most users thought were practical. Exu the victim of Mr. Bungle’s rape, states, “I trust people to conduct themselves with some veneer of civility,” (6). These virtual worlds are places that most users established as safe communities. It was unlikely that someone wishing to do harm to the community would even enter such a place as LambdaMOO; however, as all societies virtual or real, there are those people that will interrupt the safety of a community for his or her own amusement. This is where the lines of VR and RL connect. There is never an escape from the real world because there will always be the same instances.
The community of LambdaMOO thought that “toading” Mr. Bungle would suffice; unfortunately, the character only arose again as a new character named Dr. Jest (18). One main difference to point out, however, is that the two characters – Mr. Bungle and Dr. Jest – were played by two different people. Mr. Bungle was sought out as a joke to harass the virtual world for their own amusement; however, Dr. Jest returned as a single student getting off on a strange fetish.
What surfaces with the discovery of such incidents like the LambdaMOO one is that there is truly no escape from the real world. With every society comes choices on how to act. Personally, I believe that virtual worlds only amplify the dystopian societal aspect. If there truly are no consequences for such behavior, what stops the perpetrators from perpetrating. The freedom that reigns in the virtual world is untouched by governmental intervention; therefore, there will be no democratic society. Although it is possible to ban such behavior by eliminating a character, it is very easy to reinstate one’s self just as Dr. Jest did.
So the collision happens at the very beginning. Imagine, with an unbiased opinion, someone is reincarnated. They have all the rights to do what they want and become who they want. They are new again and are building a name for himself or herself. That is what LambdaMOO allows. A new name and identity for every user that interacts – of course the only differences are, again, the legal actions. The everything is similar between the two societies except for the governmental structure.
It is important to remember that there will always be a problem with communities whether they are real or virtual. The “freedoms of expressions” cannot be banned and therefore acts will always be disapproved by some party (28). The freedoms that are allowed to be expressed prevents a utopian society to form. The author was wrong to think that there were “truer” and “more elegant” things to find on LambdaMOO (28). The escape from the real world does not mean the virtual world will take away all the craziness you disapprove of. It means there is an even more likely chance for destruction to happen because as Dr. Jest and Mr. Bungle thought, there are no legal consequences to their actions since after all, it is just a virtual world.