Governance in Virtual Worlds: Grief Play, Hacktivism & LeakOps in Second Life
New Review of Hypermedia & Multimedia, Volume 18, Number 4, 237-259
35 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2012 Last revised: 2 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 1, 2011
The acts of transgression in cyberspace have grown in visibility with grief play and griefing in virtual worlds. Briefly defined, griefing is the intentional harassment of other players. This paper argues that in recent years, griefing has developed from a set of trolling practices that manifests itself as offensive language and tasteless pranks into political initiatives with hacktivist undertones. Because the tactical nature of role-playing and gaming provides the anonymity and the cunningness required for hacktivistic initiatives, griefing bears the potential to take part in the transgressive politics of civil disobedience. Arguing that grief play and griefing are tactical uses of media that lead to transgressive politics, this paper will examine the role of such activities in influencing virtual politics. In order to demonstrate how this transformation has occured, this paper will discuss the birth of vigilante organizations, specifically, that of Justice League Unlimited (JLU), and the operation conducted against them by The Wrong Hands. The said operation, whose intention was to leak JLU's secret papers, Brainiac Wiki, exposed a grid-wide surveillance operation that the vigilante group was conducting in Second Life.
Keywords: griefing, trolling, virtual worlds, hacktivism, governance, leakops, paramilitary organizations, vigilante groups, Second Life
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