Some years ago, Ray Oldenburg published The Great Good Place and also Celebrating the Third Place. He was celebrating neighborhood hangouts (including general stores, bars. beauty parlors, etc.) where folks meet and entertain each other. Oldenburg was also worrying about the demise of these places.
Urban economists love to celebrate cities as places where ideas are exchanged and spawned. "City lights" are an important element in entrepreneurial discovery and economic development.
What to make of yesterday's NY Times report on "Destination Laptopistan"? The piece mentions entrepreneurial activity, but also notes that local etiquette limits the sort of chat that Oldenburg prized.
The internet changes everything -- we hear. We can retreat to cyberspace to work, to think, to be entertained and even communicate. And we can do this alone or in a public space. Is Laptopistan a Great Good Place? Does it suggest that we are Bowling Alone? Starbucks and many wannabees are great success stories because the founders and backers had sensed that most people do not want to be alone with their laptop. As I so often say, there are many manifestations of "density."