My Tiny Life

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Book: My Tiny Life. Julian Dibbel.

See also Dibbel's follow-up book Play Money


By Steven Shaviro at

"1. Some years ago, towards the end of the last century, the journalist Julian Dibbell published a book called My Tiny Life (1999), recounting his adventures in LambdaMOO. LambdaMOO was (and still is) a MOO, which is a kind of MUD, which is a text-based virtual world. Dibbell's book explored what, at the time, was a radically new experience: crafting a persona, and living a life, in an online virtual environment. The book started with Dibbell's account (earlier published as an article) of "A Rape in Cyberspace": an incident on LambdaMOO in which one of the players hacked the system in such a way as to control the actions of other characters, so as to subject them to various sexual indignities. My Tiny Life went on to narrate the aftermath of the incident: how the virtual crime was sanctioned by a virtual punishment, the banishment of the offender from LambdaMOO; and further, how the whole order of things on the MOO was turned upside down, and something like an experiment in virtual democracy was born.

2. For most of the book, Dibbell explores the rich texture of life on LambdaMOO in the years following the "rape" incident. He describes the social, sexual, and aesthetic aspects of MOO life, its often intense satisfactions and equally insistent annoyances. He raises questions about how virtual identities and virtual experiences relate to physical ones, and about the gender fluidity, multiplication of identities, and emotional intensities that seem to characterize life in cyberspace. But most of all, Dibbell powerfully conveys a sense of what it was like to live on LambdaMOO in the mid-1990s, to be a pioneering inhabitant of a digital virtual world at a time when the Internet was not yet the mass (and massively commercialized) medium that it is today."