Tackling the Virtual Vandal: Designing Out Crime Within Virtual Reality Communities

Matthew L. Williams, Cardiff University

The current study examines instances of vandalism within one Virtual Reality (VR) online community named CyberWorlds. Unlike the majority of online criminal or deviant activities that have been rationalized in legal and criminological discourses, virtual vandalism, a deviant activity unique to VR Worlds, holds different challenges for online crime prevention. Within VR environments individuals build homes and structures so that they can be remembered by others while they are not online. This link to online life, which for some is as meaningful as life offline, leads individuals to engrave themselves, their personalities into the landscape. Yet the permanence of these artefacts is under constant threat. Virtual vandalism features as a constant concern for those who wish to maintain the integrity of their artefacts, both semantically and aesthetically. This paper discusses the effectiveness of a range of online crime prevention methods aimed at reducing online vandalism and presents narratives and extracts from community members that illustrate the growing concern over the effects virtual vandalism has on online community cohesion.

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Updated 05/20/2006