The Cup of Sugar Project - reflections on Online Communities

I have made a friend, and she hopes to be yours as well. Her name is BrookeJ and she’s doing a project regarding what it means to be a neighbor in America, and how that may have changed over time.

The short version is:

She’d like to borrow a cup of sugar from you (I’ve heard a rumor that it may be returned as cookies), along with any thoughts you have about being a part of an online community.

There are more details at

So, please give her a warm welcome, and let her know what you think!

Hi Brooke!

and Slackergirl, of course.


Hi aenea!

Thanks to Slackergirl for the introduction.

It’s true about the trade cookies for sugar rumor. If you send me sugar I will send you back cookies, even though it doesn’t say that on the website.

Your sugar is SO on the way!

[sub]MMMMMM, coookies![/sub]

Okay, it’s in the mail.

Lord know I’ve done stranger things on a Tuesday morning…

Hi, Brooke! You should read Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone, which is an extensive study on this exact same subject. Good luck!

Thanks for the recommend! This is definitely exactly what I’m investigating in this project.

Here is a quote from Amazon’s synopsis of the book: “Television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, generational changes in values–these and other changes in American society have meant that fewer and fewer of us find that the League of Women Voters, or the United Way, or the Shriners, or the monthly bridge club, or even a Sunday picnic with friends fits the way we have come to live. Our growing social-capital deficit threatens educational performance, safe neighborhoods, equitable tax collection, democratic responsiveness, everyday honesty, and even our health and happiness.”

I also want to attempt to see how people use connections they make on the Internet to replace some of the lost connections in the physical world. Do you think that is possible?

Absolutely. And I believe the newer editions of Bowling Alone have either a chapter or an addendum by Putnam addressing that exact issue. However, I have a feeling you’re not going to like his conclusion. He draws a very distinct and fundamental difference between the two (virtual and real), and points out an incredibly difficult gap to bridge. There are certainly some small exceptions, but for the most part, it’s a tough (and ultimately, inadequate) substitution.

If you do read it, make sure you get a solid grasp on “social capital”, the currency of social interaction.

To Inky and Aenea:

Thanks for the sugar! I’ll send cookies as soon as I get it.