FWD: Research on Virtual Punishment

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (sasha1@netcom.com)
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 01:00:50 -0400

I am forwarding this to the extropian list on request of
Richard MacKinnon <spartan@shell.portal.com>; hope you will find
his work of interest. Please do not distribute it beyond the list.


Greetings! I'm inviting you to participate on the all-star, rapid-strike
ad hoc reviwing committee for my upcoming paper "Punishing the Persona:
Correctional Strategies for the Virtual Offender" to be published as a
chapter in _The Undernet_: Internet and the Other (Steven Jones, ed.) Sage

This paper constitutes the third part of my research trilogy investigating
governance, crime, and punishment in virtual systems. The other parts are:

"Searching for the Leviathan in Usenet" in _Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated
Communication and Community_ (1995), Steven Jones (ed.), Sage Press.

"The Social Construction of Rape in Virtual Reality" in _Network and
Netplay: Groups on the Internet_ (forthing in 1996), Fay Sudweeks, Margaret
McLaughlin, and Sheizaf Rafaeli (eds.), MIT Press and the Association for
the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

If you are interested in commenting on the current draft of "Punishing the
Persona," your "rapid-strike" response is urged, otherwise I may not be able
to address your comments until another project (PtP, version 2.0??).

The secret URL for the paper is:


You may circulate the paper to others who may wish to comment, but the
purpose of the "secret URL" is to discourage mass distribution. This is
just a draft. I don't want people archiving an unfinished product.

Next is a little blurb about followed by the paper's abstract. I hope to
hear from you soon.

Thanks in advance,


Richard MacKinnon (http://www.portal.com/~rich/) is a
political scientist in the Government Department and the
Advanced Communication Technologies Laboratory (ACTLAB) at
the University of Texas at Austin. As a former police
officer, he is able to draw on his law enforcement
background to inform his theories for addressing computer-
mediated crime and virtual offenders. His research
interests are in the political anthropology, cultural
studies, and governance of virtual environments. Currently,
he is co-developing _honoria in ciberspazio_, a cyberopera
about net.relationships and fleshmeets. He spends most of
his online time dwelling in a community called Cybermind and
after spending several years in Silicon Valley, he now lives
in Austin.


The development of cybersociety poses significant
theoretical and socio-political challenges attributable to a
social space populated by "bodyless" beings. This chapter
explores the phenomenon of bodylessness and its
ramifications for the criminal corrections process. In the
case of a well-known virtual rape, the perpetrator's account
was deleted following a meeting of the virtual community's
members. This virtual execution of his online persona is
rigorously analyzed to determine if punishment of virtual
bodies is a suitable means for meting out virtual
jurisprudence. Guided largely by Foucault's insight into
non-corporal or bodyless punishment, a standard of "just
adjudication" is developed to insure that the punishment
fits the crime. In part, this standard directs punishment
for virtual offenses primarily towards the virtual body.
Accordingly, offline offenses ought to be directed primarily
towards the user. To this end, a classification scheme is
proposed to differentiate virtual offenses from conventional
computer crimes. Three cases are examined in light of this
classification and standard. They are the "rape of legba;"
the University of Michigan student, Jake Baker, who was
arrested and expelled for his Usenet posting of a "sex
fantasy;" and Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker accused of
committing several computer-related crimes. It is hoped
that the guidelines developed herein for adjudicating
computer-mediated offenses will insure that the punishment
delivered is commensurate with the crime. (Approximate
length: 15,000 words).

Richard MacKinnon http://www.portal.com/~rich/
Government Department mailto:spartan@gov.utexas.edu
Advanced Communication Technologies Laboratory (ACTLAB)
The University of Texas at Austin
Sep:Houston;Oct:San Francisco;Nov/Dec:Primm,NV/Perth