First reflections, Second Life, Third Place: community building in virtual worlds

Peachey, Anna (2008). First reflections, Second Life, Third Place: community building in virtual worlds. In: ReLIVE08 Researching Learning in Virtual Environments: Conference Proceedings, Open University, pp. 246–257.

URL: http://www2.open.ac.uk/relive08/documents/ReLIVE08...

Abstract

The Open University supports a thriving informal learning community within its presence on the Second Life virtual world platform. This paper outlines the development of that community over a two year period and demonstrates how it currently maps to the place- driven community concept of Third Place, as defined by the urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg (1991). In the field of community building, Third Place is used to describe a social environment that is distinct from the first and second place norms of home and workplace, for example a regularly frequented coffee shop. Oldenburg argues that a Third Place, “...hosts the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work” and is necessary for civil society, democracy, civic engagement and establishing an authentic sense of place within a community. From a perspective of ethnography, this paper captures a community development within Second Life and proposes that real world concepts of community and Third Place are exhibited in a virtual world, and that there are equivalent benefits in the sense of support and belonging to a virtual world community.

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