Virtual Harms and Real Responsibility

Virtual Harms and Real Responsibility

Chuck Huff (St. Olaf College, USA), Deborah G. Johnson (University of Virginia, USA) and Keith W. Miller (University of Illinois-Springfield, USA)
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-168-1.ch006
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In traditional communities, some actions are widely regarded as bad and unethical. But in online “communities,” the virtual analog of those actions may not be regarded with the same clarity. Since “virtual” behaviors are distinct from ordinary acts, they require further analysis to determine whether they are right or wrong. In this chapter we consider an incident on the Internet that illustrates this confusion. The incident centered on a virtual act of sexual violence. This “rape in cyberspace,” reported by Julian Dibbell in 1993, has generated questions about the significance of behaviors in virtual reality environments. We use the case to explore the moral nature of actions in virtual environments, emphasizing the themes of harm and responsibility. We then offer some tentative lessons to be learned and, finally, apply the lessons to virtual sex and to first-person shooter computer games.

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