Our Cyborg Selves

Both Dibbell's "A Rape in Cyberspace" and Turkle's Who Am We?" deal with the composition of identity in the cyber world. Finding gray areas and transgressions between VR (virtual reality) and RL (real life) appears to be their specialty. Understanding the significance of cyber spaces, societies, and relationships blurs the common separation between the real and the virtual, the body and the mind. Central to this reconstituted person is "thinking about the self as a multiple, distributed system… a decentered self that exists in many worlds" (Turkle, 237). Specifically the new view of self and others as characters seen through a window has fundamentally shifted human interaction and representation. This multidimensional experience expands the scope of human involvement and Being with technology, thus making events such as cyber rape far more significant and potentially damaging than previously imagined.

Stylistically Dibbell and Turkle's pronoun substitution helps illustrate their recently formed selves. Renaming herself "Dr. Bombay" Dibbell constantly utilizes first person narrative and eagerly drops her "quotidian identity." By illustrating LambdaMOO life and space exactly as one would real physical space, she brings the characters, rooms, remarks, and events to life. Turkle goes even further by often replacing singular pronouns with plurals, and speaking of herself in the third person. Even her title "Who Am We?" reveals her thesis of blended identities, an amalgam of characters and worlds in constantly interaction, replacing the singular "me." For example, she begins by insisting "there are many Sherry Turkles," (Turkle, 236), and then proceeds to list several of these identities: "French Sherry," "Dr. Turkle," "Turkle the social scientist," and "Sherry Turkle." Perhaps her most evident and suggestive illustration of her mobile identity occurs when she quotes herself, as she would an outside source "Turkle writes" (Turkle, 237). More than just a stylistic quirk, these alterations reveal the new multidimensional possibilities of human Being.

Illustrating thought and directedness as truly inner discourse and struggle between different systems, perspectives, worlds, and characters shows the perpetual blur of the post modern identity. However, Dibbell argues that despite this disassociation of selves, physical and cyber, violation and rape are still possible. Labeling rape as mainly a mental crime that remains damaging and violating despite not necessarily occurring in RL. According to Dibbell's refrain "he [Mr. Bungle, the rapist] did choose the living room" (Dibbell, 200), implying the live state of the MUD. The space Mr. Bungle chose was indeed a living room. It was created, it had habitants, it housed cyber life for many years. The space had a society, relationships, and even textualized thingness. By calling it a "living room" Dibbell equates this cyber world with RL, and thus she views a cyber rape as very possible and serious.

To many this notion of windowed existence and fractured identity is alienating. And indeed these developments are frightening and destabilizing. Some might say they distract us from our true and artful Being, and turn is into shells of our former firmly human selves. However, the possibility exists that this groundedness is false, limiting, and a view that requires reworking in the developing age. In fact transgressing Cartesian identity seems long awaited, and at the very least appropriate in this "windowed" age.