Bowling Alone, the Local Internet, and XBox Live

From Putnam, 1995:

The most whimsical yet discomfiting bit of evidence of social disengagement in contemporary America that I have discovered is this: more Americans are bowling today than ever before, but bowling in organized leagues has plummeted in the last decade or so. Between 1980 and 1993 the total number of bowlers in America increased by 10 percent, while league bowling decreased by 40 percent … The broader social significance … lies in the social interaction and even occasionally civic conversations over beer and pizza that solo bowlers forgo. Whether or not bowling beats balloting in the eyes of most Americans, bowling teams illustrate yet another vanishing form of social capital.

Edupunk* that I am, I occasionally feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I have this theory, shared by many, that the Local Internet can start to rebuild the local communities that national TV destroyed over the past 60 years.

And then I think I’ve got to join the struggle and use my knowledge to help fix this. And that’s what I feel I’ve been doing, in one way or another, for quite a few years now.

But occasionally I happen on something that is just *happening*, happening naturally and organically. Something that feels less like rolling rocks uphill and more like bodysurfing the revolution.

XBox Live is such a thing. Until recently I had no idea what this was. I mean, one hears the talk about Second Life, and about World of Warcraft — those efforts and their relation to culture have been dissected quite a bit by academia — themes of value, life building, construction of self and problem solving have been analyzed in these arenas.

But what no one ever mentions is XBox Live and Bowling Alone.

Put simply, here is what I discovered on XBox Live. I started out several weeks ago playing other people nationally that I didn’t know. Random people. I got bored. It was too Compuserve chat room circa 1984.

So I started to badger my friends with XBoxes to get online so I could play them. We got five local people together and broke into teams, playing at three different houses and having one of the most amusing nights in recent memory. We’re now looking at forming a league team together and taking on other teams, or challenging others locally.

And what I found out in the process is that to varying degrees this is how many people are using XBox Live. The kid across the street plays his school friends on XBox live. People friend people they know or invite them to join games they are in. Leagues form, teams are forged. The patter in the games is a combination of tactic talk (“He’s on the balcony — try going up the back stairs while I distract him with a grenade…”) and the regular social patter one hears during any group game.

There is nothing revolutionary about this to anybody doing it. Yet look closely and you’ll see that this is the Local Internet, the process of the Internet rebuilding what the Broadcast Era destroyed.

At the end of the original essay Bowling Alone, Putnam delves into technology’s relation to the erosion of social capital:

In the language of economics, electronic technology enables individual tastes to be satisfied more fully, but at the cost of the positive social externalities associated with more primitive forms of entertainment. The same logic applies to the replacement of vaudeville by the movies and now of movies by the VCR. The new “virtual reality” helmets that we will soon don to be entertained in total isolation are merely the latest extension of this trend. Is technology thus driving a wedge between our individual interests and our collective interests?

The answer to that question, is no, not necessarily. In fact, writing in January of 1995, Putnam may have been marking the high water mark of technology’s power of separation and isolation, the last point where someone could talk about a virtual reality helmet without realizing that it gets awful lonely in that VR world if it’s not populated by people you know.

* I have chosen to spell “edupunk”, when used as a reference to a person, in lower-case. EDUPUNK the movement is, of course, in all caps, ala Jim Groom.

About these ads

12 Comments on “Bowling Alone, the Local Internet, and XBox Live”

  1. Frogs in water says:

    What is revolutionary about it is that they do it, they dont talk about it.

    If you go bowling with your edupunk t-shirt on how many will get the joke? But if you just bowl, they might bowl with you.

    Nobody talks in public about real revolutions. They are too busy. And people are listening.

  2. Howdy fantastic website! Does running a blog like this require a large amount of work?
    I have absolutely no knowledge of programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, should you have any recommendations or techniques for
    new blog owners please share. I know this is off subject but I
    just had to ask. Thank you!

  3. Leslie says:

    Wow, that’s what I was seeking for, what a information! present
    here at this website, thanks admin of this website.

  4. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this
    blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Hi would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different web browsers and I must say
    this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you suggest a
    good hosting provider at a reasonable price? Many thanks, I appreciate it!

  6. Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to help
    with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords
    but I’m not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share.
    Thank you!

  7. What’s up colleagues, fastidious paragraph and good urging commented at
    this place, I am really enjoying by these.

  8. Hello there, You have done an incredible job.
    I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends.

    I’m confident they will be benefited from this site.

  9. Hi there would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re working with?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different internet browsers and I
    must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.

    Can you recommend a good hosting provider at a honest price?
    Cheers, I appreciate it!

  10. Tiffiny says:

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks,
    However I am going through troubles with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can’t subscribe to it.

    Is there anybody else having identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly
    respond? Thanks!!

  11. It’s awesome in support of me to have a web site, which is good in favor of my knowledge.

    thanks admin

  12. The game has two addictive modes, action and strategy and both
    of them offer the good replay ability. These kinds of games are very specific to people and have with them
    a requirement of how people can orr should play. For some, the
    strategy y of one may not necessarily bbe the strategy of another.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 135 other followers