Katherine Cross is a PhD Candidate in the CUNY Graduate Centre’s Sociology programme. Among other things, she is a writer, an editor at The Border House blog for feminist gaming criticism, a board member at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, an opera lover, and of course, a lifelong gamer. Her work has been published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, The Occupied Times of London, Bitch Magazine, AutoStraddle, and Kotaku, with a forthcoming article in Loading: The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association.
Ethics for Cyborgs
The ubiquity and virulence of online harassment, “trolling,” and other forms of abuse in gaming is now widely remarked on but its causes remain poorly understood. Often, we see the anonymity of the online world blamed for the unparalleled nastiness of behaviour in gaming spaces, yet this misconception may do more harm than good when attempting to combat abuse. This talk will situate anonymity as a “positive freedom” to be cherished, rather than the root cause of all that ails us online. From there, it will develop a radical new theory to help us understand what is broken in the virtual world and how it might be mended.
This talk suggests that the real cause of our cyber woes is a lack of accountability caused by two things: one, that it is socially acceptable to treat the internet and gaming as “not real” and therefore not subject to existing ethical norms; and two, that we have not yet developed new social norms to promote accountable, empathetic, and responsible behaviour in gaming spaces. In short, we lack ethics for cyborgs—those permanently logged-in, plugged-in beings we are inexorably and felicitously becoming. The virtual world is very real, and we need new ethics to respond to the needs of the virtual—we still lack a coherent, collectively enforced code of conduct for being a good online gamer, for example. This is an urgent project not only for feminists, but for everyone concerned about ensuring that virtual worlds live up to their beautifully boundless potential.