That Third Space

One of the most exciting ideas emerging from 2018 is this concept of a “digital third space.” A “third space” is a water-cooler of sorts, a place for people to chat and relax. Over the years, the context of this third space has evolved, from the local arcade to the movie theatre to…now…some strange corner of the internet. 

Everyone wants to know what that third space will look like. Everyone wants to know where the “kids will be hanging out” in the future. I think this is an important question to think about, as digital communities become a more and more integral component of society. 

So what are my guesses? 

I think that today’s online communities are really just the beginning of what will be a massive shift towards digital citizenship and governance. I view the third space as the materialization of digital cities. We have struck land, but we have yet to discover America. We, in my mind, are in the very early stages of having developed extremely sticky digital third spaces. There is so much infrastructure left to be built. 

In my opinion, the best example we have today of a truly digital native third space is video games. This is not a hot take, as people are sharing interesting stories about how kids are spending all their time hanging out in the digital world of Fortnite.

Fortnite has become a third space for many people, as it has become so much more than a game

Teens who play the game also feel this way. “I play with friends, as it enhances the experience and the amount of joy I get from the game,” says player Max, 18. “It’s a casual experience for us where we can sit back and occupy free time.”

For my sons and a lot of kids their age, Fortnite is not a game they play, it’s a place they go — and, importantly, it’s a place they go with friends and not with Mom and Dad. It’s fulfilling the same development role as those illicit teen spaces from the 1970s and ’80s — those dodgy youth clubs, arcades, and video stores that we discovered unchaperoned

I think this is a small glimpse of the future – “pubs” will be back. How they will look? I am not exactly sure.