Dear Steinkuehler and Williams,
I thought the article "Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name:
Online Games as "Third Places"' was really interesting and brought the idea of communities online to greater light. The different characteristics that make a third place definatly apply to MMOs but can also apply to other social media like Second Life. Second Life also creates a neutral ground in which people can decide how much they want to use the program, in turn, how involved they want to become in interacting in Second Life. Second life is also a good example of the leveling characteristic because the user can decide how they want to look and basically who they want to be that has nothing to do with their real life status. People can create businesses that they could never have started in thier real lives. Second Life has a chat window and microphone so the conversation characteristic is represented as well. Second Life can be easily downloaded and is free, making it easily accessible and available. The regulars in Second Life are the users that create the different worlds and products as well as the people who actively visit these worlds and purchase these products. Many people also consider Second Life as a "second home", so it relates to that characteristic too. Another characteristic is that the mood is playful, and in second life you can do so many things that are fun and not serious, it becomes a sort of escape from real life problems. Finally, the site is a home away from home "in terms of Seamon's (1979) five defining traits: rootedness, feelings of possession, spiritual regeneration, feelings of being at ease, and warmth" (Steinkuehler and Williams). Second Life might be one of the best examples of this characteristic.
I feel that the third place analysis applies to virtual worlds and even some social networking sites because people are able to be other people and feel comfortable being who they want to be.