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CNN Today

Getting Together: Modern Society Struggles to Define Community

Aired February 4, 2000 - 1:48 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Each day, more of us are spending more time on computers having electronic conversations with friends, relatives and often complete strangers. For many folks trying to reach out, computers have been a godsend, but some critics think we're losing the human touch.

CNN's Gina London spoke with some folks in rural Georgia who share their ideas the old-fashioned way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kevin, what kind of sauce do you want...

GINA LONDON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For about 16 years George and Alice Paul (ph) have been dishing up barbecue for people in the small down of Lexington, Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most barbecue places I go to the barbecue is dry. This is just right.

LONDON: For about 15 years, Howard Rheingold has been dishing on one of the oldest gathering sites on the Internet, known as The Well.

HOWARD RHEINGOLD, FOUNDER, "THE WELL": Sports to parenting to books, and over a period of weeks and months these messages add up to kind of group conversations.

LONDON: Over at Paul's, folks have also gotten to know each other through the years.

GEORGE FINGER, PAUL'S CUSTOMER: I think it's the food and I think it's also...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conversation.

FINGER: ... the conversation. It's a meeting place.

LONDON: From Paul's to computers, people have been debating what "community" really means and how technology changes it for years.

(on camera): It used to be that people would gather in the town squares or the village green to discuss issues or gossip, but after the industrial revolution and the development of the car, our small, village-based communities gave way to the sprawl of suburbia, like here outside Atlanta at one of the newest and biggest shopping centers in the U.S.

(voice-over): If we're spending more time in cyberspace, are we opening the door to the world only to shut ourselves up in a room with a computer?

RHEINGOLD: If your only communication with humans is online, you've got a problem.

LONDON: Virtual communities can provide help and support when others cannot.

RHEINGOLD: If you are the only person who is an Alzheimer's caregiver or has breast cancer in your small town.

LONDON: And for some. the added dimension is not a threat at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. I go on the Internet and I go to the mall and everything, but...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is home. Nothing appeals to me more than -- you know, you can find out a lot just even listening. You don't have to talk to anybody. You can just park your ear up to the table next door and you find out a lot.

LONDON: As we savor technology like so much barbecue, isn't it ultimately up to us to decide what impact it has over our lives?

Gina London, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: I'll have to get online with my friends and tell them about that barbecue place.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Something to chew on there.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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