As an (unplanned) follow-up to today’s morning post about public health use of the internet we have tonight’s event in Second Life, a chance to meet and chat with wiki partner DemFromCT:
Our next installment of the Virtually Speaking interview series takes place TONIGHT, Thursday, at 6pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern.
We are very excited that DemFromCT can join us to talk about public health policy, in particular preparedness for a pandemic. He and I have been trading comments on some skepticism I have about this, so this is going to be an especially interesting discussion.
All skeptics are welcome. He’s promised to set us straight, and he’ll give us the story in real time. (JayAkroyd at DailyKos)
This is a good chance to try Second Life, if you haven’t already. CDC has a small outpost there, as does NOAA. There is a Reuter’s bureau, lots of schools and colleges (e.g., MIT has “dormitories” there), Fortune 500 companies. Many well known people have “avatars” (their computerized 3D surrogates in the Second Life virtual world). Examples: Richard Dawkins and Richard Posner (federal Appeals Court Judge and University of Chicago Law Professor who, contrary to evidence, is not a printing press but a real person who just gets up each morning and writes a book before breakfast). Mainly, though, its unfamous people (I don’t want to say ordinary people; you’ll see why when you get there).
SL is not for everybody, but apparently it’s for at least 3 or 4 million not-everybodys, the current number of registrants. Usually there are a mere 30,000 to 40,000 around at any one time, but it’s a big place. Registering for SL is free and will allow you to attend events like the chat with DemFromCT (just walk up to him and say “Hi, Revere sent me”). Once you download the SL software (the graphics are amazing but your box will be doing some of the work), get a little practice walking around and decide on your appearance (it can be changed at any time so if you are just going to meet Dem, don’t fuss with it), you can teleport directly to the chat by using the “SLURL” address linked in the DailyKos story (this one, if you are already registered). If you want to do more in SL, like buy land or start a business (lots of money changes hands there, but it is in special currency, Linden Dollars, which you buy with your credit card or PayPal; don’t bother until you’ve played around with it and get serious. I am not a paying member). Of course the biggest business in SL is the same as the biggest business on the internet: sex.
But lots more goes on there and chatting with (but not sex with) DemFromCT about pandemic preparedness is going to be one of them, tonight at 9 pm EST, 6 pm PST. I plan to be there (my avatar isn’t named “Revere”; you get to pick a first name but not a last name in SL. But you’ll see when you get there).
SL is international. Many languages are spoken there, so if you are a francophone or speak Spanish there’s lots of others that do, too (I don’t know how many languages are represented; a lot).
The big question is how those of us interested in public health can (and will) use something like this. A virtual meeting place for our neighborhood? The idea of getting together online with people down the block seems bizarre, but if it works . . . I can hear the moans and “what’s the world coming to” responses, now, but it’s not something we can ignore. How do you organize others using a tool like this? Is this a place to recruit a people with certain skills to help with preparedness?
There are probably some out there already using SL for public health purposes. I’d like to hear from you.
Update: I attended the “event” in SL along with about two dozen “others.” DemFromCT, one of the chief moderators of the Flu Wiki Forum, was excellent, as usual and I was fascinated by the experience of “sitting” with other avatars listening to the interview. It was quite different than a webcast or video, although the content was the same. I “met” someone else with similar interests and we exchanged web coordinate info and some background. Interestingly, most of the questions from the audience were not about flu but about MRSA and Ebola, a reminder that there are a number of other diseases competing for the attention of even that small portion of the public especially interested in public health and infectious disease.