About ten years ago, when I was wandering around the library at theUniversity of Virgina looking for something that would teach me aboutthe shape of community online, I found My Tiny Life. I pulledit off the shelf and started with the first few pages in which theauthor confronts a RL server in Palo Alto that happens to containLambdaMOO.
And I guess that's ultimately why I think the best time to read My Tiny Life may be right now. Because in the end it's history we live in, not the future. And if the Internet itself no longer much looks like the future to us, it's still a strange and challenging place for us to have wound up living in -- and we forget that at the risk, I think, of our cultural soul. Now more than ever, when we seem to be resigning ourselves to the Net's seemingly inevitable transformation into a global shopping mall, we need stories like LambdaMOO's to remind us that it could have been, and can still be, something much weirder and much richer.
|My Tiny Life: Crime
and Passion in a Virtual World
An Owl Books Original -- Henry Holt, Inc. -- $14.95 -- Jan. 1999
It's a wonderful little depiction of a person trying to reconcile avibrant and rich virtual world with the "silent, bone-white" machinethat houses it. After reading those pages, I was hooked. I had foundthe kind of writing and subject that made me sit down on the floorright next to the bookshelf -- I didn't want to expend the time orenergy to find a table. I wasn't the only person affected this way byreading My Tiny Life. E.g. Larry Lessig's blurb on the back cover says: "Dibbell's story is why I teach cyberlaw."
So I sought a book deal, and I got one. And the book deal led, in turn, to a three-month "residency" in LambdaMOO -- a summer of daily visits that shapes the narrative of My Tiny Life. What I saw and lived with in those three months is all here: A nascent society stirred and shaken by class conflict, mob justice, rumors of conspiracy, dreams of democracy. A circle of friends bound by disembodied affection, gossip, sexual intrigue, and political passions. An intricate, chaotic geography conjured from the imaginations of thousands of people who might never consider themselves artists but whose collective artistry was a bizarre marvel to behold.