Rather interesting article in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (Link | PDF). From the abstract (emphasis mine): "Our conclusion is that by providing spaces for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function as one form of a new "third place" for informal sociability. Participation in such virtual "third places" appears particularly well suited to the formation of bridging social capital - social relationships that, while not usually providing deep emotional support, typically function to expose the individual to a diversity of worldviews." I really enjoy these studies, and especially like the careful discernment and depth of computer-games research. After reading this study, it is no longer easy to simply say "computer games are socially alienating" but rather, "some types of of games are in some ways alienating...". It's fantastic. The more we understand how our culture fits in with games, and we fit in our culture, the more effectively we can use games in the classroom. Very cool. I also personally reflect on this study. As a long time computer gamer (I still play text-based multi-player games), I very much agree with the idea that whilst I have an expansive number of online relationships, they are in the context of an online relationship...fun, idea-based (and role-based), and not normally emotional. It's important to make this distinction; there are real-world relationships, which have value and importance, and online relationships, which have a different type of value and importance. Steinkuehler, C., and Williams, D. (2006). Where everybody knows your (screen) name: Online games as "third places." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(4), article 1.