Monday, March 19, 2012


Dear Steinkuehler and Williams,

Your article "Where Everybody Knows Your Screen Name: Online Games as Third Places," points out an interesting juxtaposition between a social capital and diversity. I agree with Putman who says, "Time spent with relatively passive and disengaging media has come at the expense of time spent on vital community-building activities." I feel that media has taken away from our abilities to socially interact. I don't believe that these pseudo communities of certain social media technologies are actually advancing human communication like some scholars do. I do however agree that MMOs act as a third place for people to meet, much like pubs. I have found this out by doing my own research and interviewing users of the game Second Life. I discovered that many people use the game to find romantic partners. I really found it interesting that you used the term "social capital" in your article to refer to relationships. I usually hear this term in other academic writings as defined by earning capital based on online participation, not earning relationships partnership.

The study your essay pointed to that says that American's spend half their day watching TV but only an hour per day outside the home is frightening. If people are not forced to interact with each other, human relations could become even more complicated. As shown by the table in your essay, a third place does not replicate a real life event and therefore I don't believe it can be said to be as enriching as a human contact environment. Although MMOs meet the eight criteria to be considered virtual communities, I am still not completely convinced that virtual communities are real communities. I do not see a large difference however in the social capital that is exchanged in the real world with the social capital that is exhanged online. You mention that only a few conversations in MMOs lead to a deeper relationships, however this is the same in real life. I do think that real relationship potentials are probably hindered however, by the restrictions MMOs have in terms of social cues.

I found it most important that you mentioned that, "Perhaps it is not that contemporary media use has led to a decline in civic and social engagement, but rather that a decline in civic and social engagement has led to retribalization through contemporary media." I think it is very important to realize that the cycle of loss of human engagement is circular and its causes and effects are equal. I think you are bold to say that MMOs are a catalyst for improving social conditions and diversity. Most of these games require the persons who play to pay, therefore the users must have money and the time to play. Many people are working harder in these rough economic times and for longer hours and therefore, they have less time and money to participate in these games. I think that these game users lack diversity and therefore, I do not agree that the use of MMO's would lead to social improvement.

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