Thursday, March 15, 2001

Like one of the vodoo-dolls of Mr Bungle, Julian Dibble's A Rape in Cyberspace comes back to haunt me. Ever since I read it, it has bothered me. How can there be a rape? And of course, there is no clinic rape. But there is an act of abuse, or most seriously, the power and control of some players over their characters was taken away from them.

In a digital space like a MUD, a MOO or a chat-room, your independence to act and choose your actions is the way you express yourself as an individual, and not a 'bot, a coded object sending off different messages. When this is taken away from you, in this environment you are less than a raped woman, you don't even have the choice to cry and express your unhappiness. You can of course turn off the computer, but that doesn't return to you the power to act, speak and be an individual in this space. That is the final retreat and abandonment of your identity in this context. No, there are no scars on your body, and the harm to your self-worth can't really be compared - it isn't a rape. But a new way to communicate means a new way to be abused. We just need an other word for it.

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