The Griefer and the Stalker: Disruptive Actors in a Second Life Educational Community

Jean-Paul Lafayette DuQuette


Linden Lab’s Second Life (SL) is well-known for its hands-off approach to user conflict-resolution. Although users are given tools to mute and block individual accounts as well as ban undesirable avatars from user-owned land, that does not prevent determined, malicious users from disrupting communities and harassing individuals. This case study focuses on two such malicious users exemplary of two specific types of malevolent virtual world actors: in-world griefers and online stalkers. As part of a decade-long ethnographic research project within the Cypris Chat English language learning community in SL, this paper utilizes data gleaned from notes on participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and first-hand encounters. It categorizes the disparate strategies these individuals have used over the years in their attempts to disrupt group cohesion, sow distrust between students and teachers, humiliate individuals, and foment an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. It then reviews the methods community members used to defend themselves from such attacks and analyzes the efficacy of these strategies. This study builds on our understanding of harassment in virtual worlds and acts as a cautionary tale for future virtual world educators and community leaders considering the development of their own online classes and groups.


Second Life; language education; trolling; cyberstalking; griefing; case study

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