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I want to reference one particular quote from Dibbel’s A Rape in Cyberspace where he talks about how the body involved in sex is not the physical one, but “its psychic double, the body-like self-representation we carry around in our minds” (17).  Although I disagree with his word choice on naming this psychic double a “meat-puppet or a word-puppet,” he goes on to say something that raises questions for me about the immersive nature of cyber-touch.

“I know, I know… your mind is not quite blown by the notion that sex is never so much an exchange of fluids as it is an exchange of signs.  But trust your friend Dr. Bombay, it’s one thing to grasp the notion intellectually and quite another to feel it coursing through your veins amid the virtual steam of hot netnookie… Small wonder, then, that a newbies first taste of MUD sex is often also the first time she or he surrenders wholly to the quirky terms of MUDdish ontology, recognizing in a full-bodied way that what happens inside a MUD-made world is neither exactly real nor exactly make-believe, but nonetheless profoundly, compellingly, and emotionally true.”

“coursing through your veins,” “surrenders wholly,” “full-bodied.” These are clips and phrases which seem to signal to me the immersion, body and mind, of oneself into cyber-space and cyber-touch.  And so I began musing on the question of why cyber-space is so immersive, intimate and true. And although we have been making the distinction between true and real, it seems obvious that the true events that happen within cyber-space can affect us in real ways outside of cyber-space.

Funnily enough, this made me think of a quote my Twentieth-Century Theatre History teacher brought up in one of our beginning classes.  Someone (can’t remember for the life of me who) said something like “theatre will always be 15 years behind the novel.” Which seemed strange to me at first, because a novel seemed to me a more basic art form.  After all, theatre starts as a text (a play) and is only further developed and embellished into a visceral and spectacular experience involving real people with real bodies, physicalized from the text.  What the author of the quote was really getting at was the immersive nature of a novel, the immersive nature of words themselves when the individual reader is not only allowed but required to create a world around the scaffolding that the text provides, a world that the reader is both creating and experiencing as they read along.  This world is acutely visual, sumptuously sensorial, and entirely located in ones own mind.

I realized that the more of the senses that are not provided for someone in the description of a world (theatre provides sound, visuals, sometimes touch, sometimes even smell wherein the novel provides none of these things, only symbols for us to interpret as we will), the more that the individual has to use their imagination to create the missing senses in their mind, and often the mind goes well beyond the description contained in the text.  The next step, it seems, would be to take away text altogether, to land at visualization, meditation, hypnosis.

The act of creating a scene in ones mind is what is so immersive about LambdaMOO. So when I was reading about the rape that took place in LambdaMOO, I realized something horrifying, which was that the victims of the rape were provided only text to signify the rape.  Then the victims would have visualized, contextualized and experienced the rape within their own minds, forced to become an architect of their own horrible experience.