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My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in the Virtual World [Paperback]

Julian Dibbell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 1999

The true story of a journey into an on-line community, LambdaMOO, a virtual Eden, where race, gender and identity were infinitely malleable and whose visitors thought they had escaped from all usual cultural limits. Until a brutal rape and ideological warfare between high and low castes brought the virtual and real worlds into seismic collision.

"LambdaMOO is a new kind of society, where thousands of people voluntarily come together from all over the world. What these people say or do may not always be to your liking; as when visiting any international city, it is wise to be careful who you associate with and what you say…" – LambdaMOO log-on screen

The rape is just the start. What is frightening is that it happened in the living room, amid the well-stocked bookcases and sofas and fireplace, of a house in a place that was once perfect. Perfect, in that it was flawless, a clear canvas for every individual to explore their creative selves. This place, LambdaMOO, is a virtual Garden of Good – and, perhaps inevitably once enough people had entered it, Evil. And that is how the masked character, Mr Bungle, comes to assault and abuse two females by entering sadistic fantasies into a voodoo doll program; that is how the Schmoo wars begin, how wizards are isolated from their flock, how laws are fought over, how love and sex and death emerge into the virtual world – and how what began as ideal and virtual becomes actual and all to real. The reader becomes Gulliver, travelling into the Tiny World of virtual reality, wandering the pathways in a moral journey that belongs to Lord of the Flies with a cast of charcters from the Lawnmower Man.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Company (Jan 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805036261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805036268
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,641,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In the early 90s, writer Julian Dibbell dwelt in LambdaMOO, at a time when a virtual rape took place--forcing the stirring of what he calls a tinysociety.

A MOO, or MUD object-oriented (MUD for multi-user dungeon), is an online role-playing game where players share virtual space, build rooms and interact socially. Dibbell watched, listened and participated while the community--for such the conglomeration of players had become--debated what action to take against the "rapist": whether to "toad" him (shut down his account) or simply subject him to some form of virtual shunning.

Dibbell, who also writes for Village Voice and Time magazine, chronicles his time in LambdaMOO in My Tiny Life, alternating between various RL (real life) locales and his life in VR (virtual reality). But the book offers more than just a timeline of virtual conversations and some racy cybersex encounters. Dibbell examines not only the evolution of politics on the MOO-- "Labmdamocracy", as he puts it--but also how the MOO fitted into the context of concomitant technological developments.

The book's biggest drawback is that it reads like a series of magazine articles strung together, and the RL sections attempt give you the feeling you're in a real-life MOO by repeating phrases like, "The Author is here". It seems unduly pretentious: since the author is narrating the story, do we really need to be told this? Nevertheless, the book is beautifully crafted and well worth reading.--Liz Bailey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Highly recommended.' (- Times Higher Education Supplement) 'If you like complex narratives of Utopia defiled, this is for you.' -- - Mail on Sunday

'Spectacularly well written . . . compelling reading.' -- - Evening Standard

A gnostic parable of a fall from Nirvana' -- i-D

An intriguing read.' -- - Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly a cracking read 12 May 2009
This book is superbly written. I can't remember what drew me to getting hold of and reading this book but I am glad I did. It may have been a vague interest in the concept of virtual worlds that is sure to become more and more important to with the advance of technology. I concede that not everyone would get into this, but it worked for me.

Virtual worlds must be of great interest to sociologists and psychologists. It is astonishing how the virtual world takes on many of the attributes of a real world, including politics.

I even created my own account in this virtual world and was amazed to find it there, just as the author had described it. I didn't stay long, but I did get chatting to someone who had known the author (by his virtual name) and didn't think much of the book; I suspect he hadn't read it or didn't appreciate good literature.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly intoxicating 5 April 1999
By A Customer
This is the story of the author's travels in a text-based landscape. What I didn't expect was how intoxicating a vision it would be - you can make your home in the roof-space of an opera house entirely contained in the jewelled eye of the trout on the cover of 'Little, Big', and the body you wear can be seven-foot and freckled, or small, plump and with tawny fur - or either on alternate days. I followed the events with interest, and ended the book much more tempted by LambdaMoo than when I began, and also more wary - and respectful. I have friends who have online relationships which I never quite understood - I guess now I'm closer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent if dated 7 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When this book was written, soon after the Internet was "born", I, like most people in my part of the world, was limited by finances - not all of us had the advantages of our American friends, not all of us could log in from work. Huge telephone bills and horrible little low-baud modems meant online time was strictly limited. I was then and am now, jealous!
In this book Julian, a journalist, describes his experiences with living in (for several hours a day) what was basically the very first Multiplayer Virtual World (at least the first to use computers as a medium) - he was able to justify this by calling it research for this book.
It's a fascinating read. The world he describes is a real, whole world, constructed purely by words. The "world" program describes to the player what is around him, a room, a garden - and she then describes what she does. Compared to today's Multiplayer Online Worlds or MMOs this sounds limiting but it is actually limitless! And the pure focus on words rather than the visual, or on the game or puzzle as in today's environments, (examples are A Tale in the Desert, EVE Online, Second Life, or There) means social interaction becomes the ONLY gameplay. In most modern MMOs the official gameplay, in my experience, is about killing more beasties to get money so that you can buy better gear and kill harder beasties. While there is some social interaction the "game" element limits and controls it. Money drives the virtual worlds as well as the "real" one.
Of course a world constructed by words is not new. A good book does that! But this is a world in which there are OTHER LIVE HUMANS.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An infuriating book I had to finish. 23 Nov 1999
By A Customer
The temptation to yell "GET A LIFE" throughout this book is almost overwhelming, yet I had to finish it. It was weirdly compelling. I kept expecting it to turn out to be a novel rather than a true account, and even now I can hardly believe that anybody would choose to spend large parts of their lives in the 'virtual' world described in the book. Ultimately Dibbell did not convince me to come to a conclusion other than that people who spend a minimum of 30 hours, and sometimes up to 60 hours a week, logged on to their computers playing this game are seriously wacky. Still, it is at least thought-provoking.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Laurel" speaks 20 Jan 2000
By NANCY R DEUEL - Published on Amazon.com
I was the character that Dibbell called "Laurel" in his book. I was "there" though the entire story he describes, reading what he read in real time, although I never "spoke" with him (on-line or off). His book is remarkably accurate, although he does not have all the facts straight of the people behind the LambdaMOO characters. He deserves a lot of credit -- he got it closer than anyone else possibly could have.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Study of a Fascinating Topic 8 Jan 1999
By S. Fitzgerald - Published on Amazon.com
My Tiny Life largely succeeds in its presentation of the evolution of a "Tiny" society, one that -- if you believe Dibbell's writing -- struggles through serious birthing pains as its population swells and it must contend with the issues of relationships, sex, gender (and gender's possible non-relevance online), ethics, law and self-governance. Not to mention how much LambdaMOO can absorb of your "real world" life.
Dibbell's voyeurism and exhibitionism becomes somewhat annoying and distracting from time to time, although I do see the value of showing how his MOO life affects his relationship with his significant other. This is part of any journalistic writing in which the author is also participant, I suppose.
If, like Evandra in a previous review, you were there when these events unfolded, it may not be of interest or of great enough depth to you -- but the insider's attitude that the book is without merit simply doesn't ring true and smacks of elitism.
Overall -- extremely thought-provoking and very enjoyable.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting work of cyber enthnography 2 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Unlike most books on cyberculture, which either dryly recount someone's meteoric rise at an Internet start-up, or seek to explain the unprecedented growth of new media and to predict its endgame, this book is actually a page-turner. I couldn't put it down. In fact, I read part of it while sitting on a giant rock in a palm oasis in the middle of the Borrego Springs desert. What makes My Tiny Life a page-turner is how effectively Mr. Dibbell turns the typed-in shorthand of the LambdaMOO residents into the epic drama of a metropolis in a state of ascent or decline, depending on your point of view. Mr. Dibbell also presents himself in a brutally honest light, detailing his inner demons and conflicts and peccadilloes, as his obsession and entanglements grow. He writes with little regard as to where this book will place him in the pantheon of the new media elite. He eschews the usual smart-*** cynicism for real analysis that while sometimes layered in college dorm late night semantics, is not altogether dismissible as this new form of communication tries to understand itself.
See the full revew at BETA Online...
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 29 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book is an instant classic of an emerging genre -- the computer memoir. Mr. Dibbell's personal accounts of his experiences with LambdaMOO are fascinating, not only for those unversed in the ways of the online world, but also for "virtual oldtimers." Whether or not the reader agrees with his opinions, his frank and sometimes painful descriptions of his life, both on- and off-line, are compelling and sincere. To view his story as a definitive history of the development of LambdaMOO would be to miss the point. Through his soul-searching, the author presents us with a very human account of what most would consider an entirely technical subject. Dibbell is a rarity -- a computer-literate humanist. Required reading for everybody.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, it's biased, but who cares? 27 Dec 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I found this book compulsively readable. I was a regular on LambdaMOO at around the same time that Dibbell was, and I found his descriptions of the experience of MOO-ing (what it's like to be there and participate in various ways) quite accurate. As for his version of MOO history, I wouldn't take it too seriously, but then, he makes it pretty clear that the motivations behind and significance of the events that he recounts are disputed. What impresses me about this book is the way it captures the feeling of being in the MOO, and the analysis of the issues that got raised in various conflicts.
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