A Rape in Cyberspace is an article written for the Village Voice by Julian Dibbell and later included in Dibbell's book My Tiny Life. It chronicles his experiences as an oberserver within the LambdaMOO, a MUD in existence since the mid 1980s.
The piece describes a "cyberrape" perpetrated Mr. Bungle, an avatar within the community against two other community members. The crime was a result of what is often referred to as the voodoo doll, the ability to attribute actions to other characters that their users did not author. Mr. Bungle used the voodoo doll to elicit violently sexual actions from the two user/characters he victimized.
The importance of A Rape in Cyberspace from a new media standpoint, is in the boundary it explores between what is "real" and what is "virtual." The emotional pain experienced by the victims of the cyberrape was real, so therefore was the transgression a real crime? Is it actionable outside the confines of the MUD?
The article also highlights issues of governance within virtual worlds where all users are democratically equal, with the exceptions of "superusers," which can take two forms: those like Mr. Bungle that use technical knowledge to control the game, and the "Wizards," who construct the virtual world and decide how it will operate. Ultimately, the users of LambdaMOO could not decide on a resolution and a Wizard took it upon himself to "toad" the Mr. Bungle character (enact a virtual form of a death penalty).
- Dibbell, Julian. "A Rape in Cyberspace." The Village Voice 21 Dec 1993.