Internet Phun with Mizuko Ito!!
October 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Mizuko Ito, “Virtually Embodied: The Reality of Fantasy in a Multi-User Dungeon” (1997)
The Net! Slippage between the physical and the non-physical! Real but embodied but not! Information is never “pure”: data has a material basis, and thought gets run through a meat filter! In one way or another! This is abundantly clear in MUD culture! Which therefore & necessarily requires a hybrid methodological approach — because behaviors (“text”) (“what does that even mean”) evince a hybrid ontological status! Not to mention an ambivalent social ethic, see below.
Mizuko Ito, “Gender Dynamics of the Japanese Media Mix” (2008)
In Japan, post-Pokemon gaming culture(s) are more girl-friendly than in the United States. Gender is a factor in Japanese gaming, but there is much greater fluidity between “girl stuff” (kawaii/cuteness) and “boy stuff” (otaku/fanboying). This is a far cry from the comparatively rigid gender binary so prevalent in Euro-American gaming culture(s), & therefore challenges culturally-specific (but frequently universalized) assumptions about what qualifies as masculine and what qualifies as feminine within fan/game spaces.
Mizuko Ito, Hanging out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (2010)
Kids these days, with their engagement and negotiations! The means by which (and media through which) these verbs emerge are in a constant state of flux. But the nouns –learning, play, expression, identity– remain the same. The question is, how to these verbs influence, facilitate, threaten, enhance, etc the nouns? That’s what we’re trying to figure out! Via an examination of specific (and interconnected) networking platforms, on- and offline relationship patterns, gaming behaviors, cultural production and work — in other words, a holistic picture of what it means to be young and wired!
I am fascinated by the concept of virtual rape. Virtual violence generally, but rape in particular. Because…what? And how? And why? And who? And what? -all questions begged by Julien Dibbel’s now-canonical “A Rape in Cyberspace.” The nutshell version is that this grotesque sex-monster in LambdaMOO voodoo-dolled a handful of other avatars into committing all stripes of self-inflicted grossness (fork-raping, pubes-eating) & was toaded (booted from the server) for his troubles. People were upset, much text was generated — it was a big deal, these rapes, and everyone had something to say about it. Though recounted with particular…let’s say aplomb…Dibbel’s account is hardly anomalous. MUD and MOO rape was (and probably still is, to the extent that the communities live on) something that happened with enough frequency not to be particularly shocking (not not upsetting, but not beyond the behavioral pale). It shows up (however briefly) in most academic accounts of MOO/MUD culture, and –from what I gather, having never been personally involved with this sort of research– was one of those things that everyone agreed was “bad,” but which was really hard/weird to talk about (because again, “virtual rape?”) and even more difficult to stop.
The point is that rape –and/or what’s described as rape– happened, as did all kinds of violence, from the most banal rock-throwing all the way up to murder (called pking in MOOs/MUDs). And it’s odd — whenever I read accounts of these sorts of behaviors, I’m always struck by the tonal similarities to Web 2.0 trolling. This is especially true for the Bungle affair; the first time I read that chapter I was like…..successful troll is seriously successful? Which is most certainly NOT to say that trolling = rape or murder or rock-throwing (you know, “real” fake violence). But that the humor –and much of the MUD violence I’ve encountered, which again wasn’t firsthand, is underscored by a kind of sardonic humor– is very similar in flavor to modern (lol @ “modern”) trolling. The form of the humor is very different, which I would argue is more reflective of the platform than the particular disruptive impulse.* MUDs and MOO are lived spaces; you would go to there, and there were things inside of there, and you would interact with them. Whatever resulting motherfuckery (seems to have) stemmed from this sense of place and solidity and inhabitance. If you wanted to fuck with someone, you fucked with their bodies. Well, the body they’d written for themselves. There aren’t (fake?) bodies to (pretend to?) kill on Facebook, but there are (real?) feelings to hurt. And so that’s what trolls do.
That isn’t exactly a digression, but isn’t exactly not digressive either (welcome to my fucking world). It is however the thing my brain did in response to the first selection, in which Ito describes the ambivalence MUDders often feels towards on-site violence, and how this tension reflects both faith in and distance from the “reality” of the platform — a position perfectly embodied (U SEE WHAT I DID THERE) by Ito’s collaberator Scott Frank, who has no problem killing monsters and dragons because they aren’t real, but is morally repulsed by the pking of individual avatars, but heads a vigilante group tasked with pking avatars who commit fake acts of fake violence against real victims. This got me thinking about modern (again, lol @ “modern”) ambivalence towards trolling behaviors, both from trolls’ and outsiders’ perspectives. Which looped me to Bungle, then to virtual rape generally, then back again to trolls.
And that, my friends, is what they call a rabbit hole.
*Ask me about the relationship between trolls and the platforms they occupy. Not right now, my head hurts. But later.