In the last decade, urbanism has con- verged, to some extent, with another field of study: Internet use. It's probably not an accident. Both cities and the Internet are at once highly atomized and elaborately connected milieus that encourage both solitude and interaction with the diverse, bountiful unwashed. And like city solitaires, Internet users were also once identified as antisocial loners, painfully awkward people who vanished into the green-gray light of their computer screens rather than joining the warm community of man. In the beginning, studies even showed this to be true (or that users were shy, anyway). But not once three-quarters of the public started using the Internet.
"The idea that you're isolated when you're online is, to me, just wrong," says Keith Hampton, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who did an extensive ethnography of "Netville," a new, 100 percent wired community in suburban Toronto. "It's an inherently social medium. What starts online moves offline, and what starts offline goes online." Which explains why the people with whom you e-mail most frequently are your closest friends and romantic partners. "Online and offline are inherently connected," he says. "They're not separate worlds."
-- Alone Together: The Loneliness Myth, by Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine, December 2008
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