Saturday, October 25, 2008

Domestic Matters

In the news this week, there have been a number of stories about spousal violence that involve online identities and social constructions that are constituted in virtual reality environments.

In Tokyo, as the Associated Press reports in "Woman jailed after 'killing' virtual husband," a female computer user who had entered into a virtual marriage with another player in the 2-D scrolling MMORPG Maple Story deleted his account when spurned. This act of computer-mediated obliteration violated laws against hacking rather than VR homicide, although the headline might suggest otherwise.

Although the stories and activities of Maple Story are not staged in 3-D worlds with photorealistic avatars, members of this online community are clearly heavily invested in social rituals and family building, which can start with owning a pet. The wedding page of the main website is filled with photographs of ostentatious ceremonies. The site includes a detailed marriage guide that covers all the steps involved in virtual betrothal from acquiring the necessary jewelry in the "Engagement Ring Quest" to making the actual online proposal to one's intended. This also isn't the first time that the legal issues of Maple Story have been considered to merit attention: I heard Minnesota law professor Dan Burk give a talk about the possible legal ramifications of the site, given his own experiences playing with his family members.

On the other side of the world, the London Daily Mail describes a real-life homicide in "Husband hacked wife to death with meat cleaver after she changed Facebook status to single." The prosecutor in this murder case contended that the accused estranged partner "was angry about an entry on Facebook he said made him look like a fool as she had advertised her marital status as single."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets hope that there was drinking and prescription drug use taking place in both of these stories. I would hate to think that either one of these people were sober when they did this crap. . . You know sort of like: "Get a life!" in the first story and "I think you two need to sit down and discuss the future." or "Don't take petty things and go absolutely crazy with them!" in the second. Really ridiculous and sad, but ultimately pointless in both cases.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Vivian Folkenflik said...

Tamar Lewin's NYT article "Study Validates Teenagers' Internet Socializing" is a treat to see. But it has a jump (in the LA edition) to the same page for Jennifer Steinhauer's piece about the case against Lori Drew, the mother charged with computer fraud in the incident involving her daughter's friend's ex-friend and MySpace, "Arguments in Case involving Net and Suicide." Last year at around this time, legal scholar Jonathan Turley wasn't sure what, if any, charges could be brought. New rights, new responsibilities?

8:05 PM  

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