First off, thanks Nick for expanding on my initial post. Here's my second post:
In Chapter 10 of his book, Rheingold discusses the possible cons of our increasingly virtual society. One idea he brings up is the cheapening of discourse, in which real argument and debates are non-existent. He borrows from Neil Postman and claims that technology has forever changed the very way we converse by substituting short cuts and special effects (features of the technology itself) for meaningful discussion and thorough arguments.
All you need to do is take a quick look at the average internet bulletin board to understand how accurate this statement is. When you are speaking to someone in person, or even over the phone, you feel a certain obligation to answer their questions directly, and respond to their arguments directly. But in the virtual world, this obligation is absent. On bulletin boards (such as imdb.com) people constantly dodge questions that, if they answered, would reveal a fault in their logic. Instead, they ignore them and either make more statements affirming their position or simply insult the other person's intelligence (which most people wouldn't even consider doing in person). After all, they can always just close the browser window when they read something they don't like. The result of this is more people holding false beliefs.
As a philosophy major, I obviously place a great deal of faith in rational, thorough discourse between people. The virtual world, however, seems to have little place for this. If this is the case, does anyone have any ideas as to how a place could be carved out in the virtual world for this kind of discourse?