Introducing the Third Place, our discussion forum

According to American sociologist Ray Oldenberg, a third place is a social environment that’s separate from home (the first place) and work (the second place).  Oldenberg notes that third places—which include cafes, libraries, churches, clubs, parks, and the like—are important for civil society, democracy, and civic engagement, according to the relevant article at Wikipedia.  In a third place, conversation is the main activity, and there’s a group of regulars, but new people are always welcome.

This sort of third place is something we’d love to offer readers of Third Factor.  Though our lack of physical proximity means it’ll be hard for us all to get together in a coffee shop, a virtual space that fits Oldenberg’s description—a welcoming space for conversation and community—is certainly within our reach.

And so we present to you our discussion forums!

“Wait, what?” you might be thinking. “A message board?  Isn’t that, like, so 2005?”

Yeah, yeah, we know: almost everyone uses Twitter and Facebook for their virtual third place now.  And don’t get us wrong: we’re excited about reaching out to new people through social media and certainly note its many benefits, and we’d be grateful if those of you who thrive in those environments use them to spread the word about Third Factor!

But we also are aware of the limitations of these platforms when it comes to thoughtful discussion.  They tend to be loud and distracting.  They’re far from ideal for in-depth discussions and for meeting new people with a range of views.  As Jessie reflected on the days when she last ran a message board (1997-2006), it occurred to her that that platform enabled precisely the sort of community we have in mind for Third Factor‘s readers: a space for people to really dig into the ideas we’re discussing here, and that simultaneously enables you all to make meaningful connections while you’re at it.

And so we invite you to join the Third Factor Third Place.  We’ll have links to it at the bottom of many of our articles, and you can also always access it from this site by clicking on “Discussion Forum” on the main menu.  We note that you will need to go there intentionally; we will only sporadically pop up in your social media feeds.  But we hope that this means that the time you spend there will be more likely to be time you actively chose to spend there, and that you’ll leave when you’ve had your fill.

A few rules: first, you’ll need to register.

Second, you’ll need to use a real name.  It need not necessarily be your actual legal name; a first-name pseudonym by which people will get to know you will suffice.  Here’s the logic behind this rule: we’d like these to be real human names because this sends an important subconscious signal that you are an actual human being.  Those signals are lacking on the Internet, and we’ve all seen what that can lead to.

Third, though it’s not required, we strongly encourage you to use a photograph (again, it can be someone else’s photograph if you really prefer), because this is another signal that the person you’re speaking to is, in fact, human.  The photo should be of the type you’d present to a group that you want to consider you a respected member.  We think this will help create a sense of community as well as keep conversation as high quality and civil as possible.  (We’ve got some research to back up this hypothesis, but it is admittedly just a hypothesis at this point as far as we know.)  Again, a photo is not required, though please do at least use a real first name as your user name.

We do, of course, encourage questions and discussion of the rules themselves, so if you have any, drop by and post them. 🙂  We’ve also got threads up and running for the articles in our first issue, and we’ve got a free-for-all miscellaneous forum as well.  It’s quiet over there right now, so now’s your chance to be an early adopter who can help us set the tone and build the community culture.  The basic guidelines to start, of course, will be an embrace of the ideals of both intellectual and emotional overexcitability: free inquiry in the pursuit of truth balanced with compassion and dignity for all.

Looking forward to conversing with you!