Your discussion about online communities acing as an alternative third place is interesting and quite profound. I do in fact agree with the statements that were made through out the article. Specifically, MMOs are used as the primary example thorough out the article to emphasize this point. The basis for the third place is that of Oldenburg’s eight principles. This consists of the place acting as a neutral ground, a leveler, a conversation promoter, a readily accessible location, gathering place for regulars, a low profile gathering area, a playful mood creator, and a home away from home.
The online environments of MMOs do appear to meet all of the following criteria presented by Oldenburg, and I do agree with this. The MMOs appear to create a sense of community that is often visible within that of offline community asa well. There is a supporting relationship among the members of the MMO participants just as there would be in a traditional offline community. Within these so called third places as well, there is also the concept of practice as mentioned by Baym. This suggests that there is some “habitual” or normal repeated behaviors within the third place. This can manifest itself in the form of speech patterns, behaviors, or in game behaviors. Baym additionally mentions that there should also be a sense of shared identity. In each of the various MMOs that exist online, each individual becomes a part of a particular team, which can ultimately create the sense of identity that Baym mentions.
An important aspect that the both of mention is the idea of social capital. This is also mentioned by Baym as being an important aspect to creating an online community. Fundamentally there are two types of social capital that can exist in a community, which are bridging and bonding social capital. While the two are different, they each appear at different times as well as different stages in a communities development. For these reasons, I do strongly agree with your opinions on communities in virtual settings.