Are games like Habitat healthy? The designers of Habitat created an environment where people can interact just as they do in the real world. There's something to be said for interacting in the real world where there's actual talking and actual money ... and no hardware concerns. It seems a little ridiculous that Ultima Online players sued for the network lagging (NMR). CNN recently had a special on the darker side of the Sims Online, and the brothels players run, crime rings people set up, etc. A link to a story which brings up similar ideas is here. As people increasingly devote more time to these online games – auctioning off their Sims money on eBay for real money, depositing their money online w/ pay pal, and ordering a pizza online – where’s the point where we’ve gone too far?
Rheingold asserts that cyberspace may be a new third place, replacing the meeting places that we lost "when the malt shop became a mall." Political scientist Robert Putnam said exactly the opposite, and I tend to believe him. Sitting at home, meeting with a group that shares your interests is ... easy. You lose the understanding and common bond that is necessary for civic engagement. The more we disassociate ourselves from society with our individual activities, the more the groups which knit together our geographic communities disappear. No matter if it's a bowling league, as Putnam states, the effect on our society is felt because communities cease to operate without groups to hold it together, no matter these groups are political or not.
As more people sit at home, look at their screens, and imagine a community based more on interests and less on geography, do we lose the sense of a common, local, bond – necessary to carry out a political will? What happens to communities and democracy when people express their opinions in an electronic forum (on anything -- not just politics), rather than in their town hall, coffee shop or church group? As a result, will politics and communities become more national and global as people connect based on interest and less on geography -- movements and political will being expressed in donations to Howard Dean and involvement in the enormous Moveon.org instead of a vote for the local school superintendent?
I think a link to the story Josh was talking about, is here but I'm not sure
And if anyone has Charter cable and gets the Sundance channel, check out e-Dreams, it was pretty good but nearly the same as Startup.com.