“Rape in Cyberspace”
Is rape purely a physical crime or can rape occur in cyberspace? In the article “A Rape in Cyberspace”, write Julian Dibbell discusses an alleged ‘virtual rape’ in a multi user dungeon (MUD) and whether this type of online behavior should/can be considered a crime; and if so to what extent can actions in cyberspace be punished. Because cyberspace is considered to be another world by most people who occupy their time in cyberspace, the avatar’s or second personalities of most people are far more likely to be more extreme than their real life counter personalities. There is debate over whether an offender in cyberspace can be held accountable of any wrongdoing because cyberspace is not real space. In addition the judicial system is lagging behind the innovations and advancements of social cyberspace. In the real world a crime is much easier to judge because there are real elements to the trial—including a jury, a victim, an offender, and a judge. However, in the virtual world, policing is a much more difficult task that cannot be approached with traditional methods. Social order in cyberspace can be maintained by a system administrator, a position which has evolved out of the need to squelch some people’s voices and actions. The admin has the power to ‘toad’ or ‘llama’ users in order to keep them from disrupting cyber community decency.
Dibbell highlights the way digital culture is increasingly playing more of a part in our world and that we must innovate and invent new social methods in order to keep up with the innovations and inventions made with technology. New technology means that there are few guidelines to governing the technologies’ use and consequently the technology can be abused. Many people may not understand the cultural elements of a cyber community and subsequently would have trouble comprehending any type of crimes that occur on cyberspace—therefore we need to educate people to the culture of cyberspace in order to make cyberspace a reality for all.
The Virtual Community
Psychologists consider having two personalities a disorder. Following the wisdom of a psychologist, people who engage in the use of multi user dungeons (MUDs) or massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) would likely be diagnosed with a split personality disorder. Howard Rheingold’s analysis in The Virtual Community focuses on real life relationships, social values, and what influences the decision making process. Rheingold asserts that most people who are engaged in a virtual community of any sort are likely presenting themselves differently online than they do in real life. Identity boundaries and social barriers are distorted in cyberspace allowing any user/participant to establish themselves as there mind sees fit. The social context of cyberspace is a complete removal of social hierarchy that exists in the tangible world. In cyberspace there is a complete transition from hierarchical power relationships to pure peer relations (excluding the idea of admins, and user levels, etc…).