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

Julian Dibbell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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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 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,217,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

LambdaMOO is one of the more successful net domains where the multiple fanciful identities of its users chat, politick and have surprising quantities of virtual sex. It was also a domain where community had to be built from scratch to expel a persona who had committed outrageous verbal sexual violence, a place that briefly found itself at the cutting edge where good manners is forced to become frontier law. Dibbell started off as a journalist who visited the domain in pursuit of a hot story. For a few heady months he was the chronicler of the growth of effective democracy, its struggle with an implicit elite of technocrat programmers and the campaign to punish an annoying polemicist with expulsion that had been the penalty for virtual rape. In the same months, he was adding terrain to the domain--a garden which actualised the I Ching--and learning the jealousies that go with virtual sex and gender swap. And, in the end, he left, deciding that real life was more important. This is an attractive and thoughtful book; its criticism of the virtual lifestyle is reasoned and not without ambiguity--Dibbell has rejected the home and friends he once loved, but with pain, not anger. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Crime and passion in a virtual world.
My Tiny Life is an utterly compelling journey into a virtual Garden of Good and Evil, navigating the moral pathways like the island-bound characters of Lord of the Flies. It's an exceptionally dramatic voyage into a territory that is not science fiction but an increasingly dominant dimension of what we call the 'real' world. This is a true story of individual lives beginning to colonise a modern utopia: LambdaMOO, a virtual island, a place of lawlessness and an uncharted moral landscape. Yet as it becomes lived in by real people and coloured by their imaginations, it is ultimately desecrated. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 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
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
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
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, it's biased, but who cares? 27 Dec 1999
By A Customer - Published on
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 29 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on
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.
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