scribble, scribble, scribble
selected TEXTS, published and unpublished


If you read only one thing I’ve written, please make it one of the following:

Widely reprinted, this curious little tale of crime and punishment online has become an all-purpose cybercultural parable, cited by authors, professors, and others looking for a quick way to explain how virtual life is and isn’t different from real life. “A classic.”* (The Village Voice, 1993) 
For 30 cents an hour, they work 12 hours a day and 7 days a week harvesting the virtual wealth of World of Warcraft and other online role-playing games. This is life in the gold farms of China, where the difference between work and play has itself become a kind of fantasy. (The New York Times Magazine, 2007) 

We pledge allegiance to the penguin, and the intellectual property regime for which he stands. One nation, under Linux, with free music and open source software for all. Welcome to Brazil! (Wired, 2004)

A profile of Jorn Barger, the Midwestern boho ascetic who coined the term “web log,” and an argument for the cultural significance of blogs. “Amusing,” Andrew Sullivan, Slate. (Feed, 2000)

In the age of the MP3, when all that is solid melts into digital air, what is to become of record collecting’s physical attractions? If only Walter Benjamin were here to tell us. In his absence, alas, you get me. (Feed, 2000)

An experiment in machine translation and a glimpse of the inhuman future of poetry. What happens when you take a perfectly good poem by W. B. Yeats and turn it into broken Portuguese and back a few times? You’ll be surprised, I bet. (Feed, 2000)

To a generation of techno-anarchists, steganography -- the arcane art of hiding messages in plain sight -- signified a dark sort of freedom. A decade later, it’s just another brick in the wall, and another mythical hidey-hole for the terrorist bogeyman. Reprinted in Best American Science Writing 2002. (Feed, 2001)

Who would have guessed the origins of online gaming lie in the depths of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave? The strange, true story of how a pair of cave geeks separated by two centuries and a world of difference mapped the cultural imagination of the information age onto Mammoth’s maze of twisty little passages. “Amazing, trippy,” Amy Wilentz, The Nation. (Topic, 2003)

The population is 225,000, the hourly wage is $3.42. Welcome to virtual paradise, where a carpenter can live in the castle of his dreams -- if he doesn’t mind an 80-hour workweek double-clicking pig iron and hoarding digital dung. An introduction to the economics of the imaginary. (Wired, 2003)

The blog that became a book. Publishers Weekly described it best: "In this cultural analysis -- part memoir, part history, part economic investigation -- Dibbell chronicles his attempts to get a piece of the estimated $880 million market in virtual goods, commodities such as armor, currency and even houses that exist only in the gaming world -- but which people are willing to pay very real money for. Funny and uncommonly thoughtful, Dibbell takes us into the computer fantasyland, introducing us to real-world game players, virtual economies and the places they interact, such as a legendary office in Tijuana where unskilled workers make $19 a day to play online, 'harvesting the resources of imaginary worlds.' Dibbell dissects the history of computers and games and tackles a number of issues legal, ethical and esoteric, including the IRS perspective on profits from dreamed-up merchandise, the difference or lack thereof between 'real' and 'virtual' currency, and the knotty question behind all the time, energy and cash spent on so much mouse-clicking: 'Why would anyone enjoy it?' An unusual narrative, careful scholarship and real passion drive this circuitous (pun intended) study of a new American pastime."
Part memoir and part ethnography, My Tiny Life is about the social life of the online, text-based virtual world LambdaMOO and my own brief encounter with it. Andrew Leonard, in Salon, called it “the best book yet on the meaning of online life.” (Henry Holt, 1999)