by Julian Dibbell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1999
An account that is part case study, part straight reporting, and part personal memoir of a virtual reality site called LambdaMOO. Portrayed here are the occupants of a MUD, or a multi-user domain, where one can simulate the experience of traveling through space via a computer. In the case of LambdaMOO, male and female users log on and construct their own characters. It was in this world, in 1993, that a user calling himself ""Mr. Bungle"" ""raped"" two other users--a crime that left the users rattled, prompting them to mete out their own justice. Dibbell first reported on the case for the Village Voice (where he is a columnist and editor), using it as an illustration of what seemed, in days before the rapid expansion of the information highway, to be the endless possibilities of cyberspace. He argues that the ""Bungle Affair"" cries out for close examination because ""it asks us [to] look without illusion upon the present possibilities for building in the online spaces of this world societies more decent and free than those mapped onto dirt and concrete and capital."" A noble objective--but in this book too soon lost sight of. Instead, Dibbell's chronicle disintegrates into various musings and anecdotes about his own adventures in LambdaMOO, starting with the author's first experience of cybersex, and all told in a style that lunges from breathless intellectual posturing to a folksy, talking-to-the-camera tone. The book is divided into sections demarcated as ""VL"" (virtual life) and ""RL"" (real life""), but rather than providing ironic contrast between a virtual world and a physical one, Dibbell mostly uses the ""RL"" sections merely to divulge details about his personal relationships. Moreover, the interest of his book leans too heavily on early prognostications of the new-media gums, who five years ago forecast the future dominance of virtual communities, expecting them to sprout all over cyberspace. They haven't, at least not yet. Sometimes fascinating, seldom enlightening.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998
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