Cyberspace has emerged as a unique phenomenon of the late 20th century, one that has offered a virtual space for dyads, groups, and communities of people to interact, share and dialogue through networks of computers. Scholars of various disciplines have coined the term cyberculture to describe, probe and examine the interactions, impact and outcomes of dialogue and identity in the 'new frontier' of cyberspace.
"In the 1960s and 1970s the vanguard of the computer revolution consisted of young men and women imbued with counter - culture values…they saw computers as tools that might both aid the fight for social justice and trigger a spiritual renaissance that would sweep away the technocratic state" (Wise 2000, 27). There are many scholars, writers, and other professionals who work hard at shaping at least some of cyberspace into a milieu for activism; to inform about crucial social issues, and act as advocates to help people use their mind and voice to shape their world. Nursing supports all of these proactive endeavors, but are nurses part of this online activity?
According to Lun, Loke, Lee, Tan and Chan, "Healthcare professionals have been quick to ride the wave of the Internet revolution by learning to use various kinds of Internet tools that allow them to interact with each other, unrestrained by national and geographical boundaries, time, and distance. They develop collaborative research ideas and exchange information through the use of electronic mails, subscribe to electronic newsgroups and participate in discussion lists." Bell summarized Jordan's 1999 description of the social characteristics of the people who populate cyberspace as "white, have professional or managerial occupations, higher than average incomes and are likely to be located in the developed world" (Bell, 2001, p. 17). This description does seem to fit the people who make up a large portion of nursing yet I question if there are many nurses actually contributing to online development and cyberspace shaping.
Bell further described cyberspace as hyperreal estate, becoming denser yet more expansive with each passing year. It has become many things to many people. A repository for approximately ten per cent of the world's knowledge; (Hamilton, 2002) an actively growing commercial smorgasbord; a rich interactive social scene; a venue for activism and advocacy; an educational milieu and a sounding board and creative venue for countless groups and individuals wishing to dialogue or create in virtual space.
Within this project, I wish to look at the non/presence of nurses within cyberculture: as interactive participants, web site designers, educators, columnists, and writers within an online environment. I have personally noticed a dearth of all of these - nurses do not appear to be particularly visible within cyberculture. I would like to explore this subjective observation in more depth and present my discovery within a web site environment.
I intend to research the presence of nurses within a number of contexts. The first will be interactive forums, bulletin boards, and email mailing lists. An eye for the type of dialogue that is created, the issues addressed, the timber of the voices that emerge will be witnessed and described to help frame the dynamics that nurses use to form a particular cyberculture for nursing related topics. As well, stories and writing by nurses will be sought, read and digested with the intent to both reveal, link and analyze the contribution made to cyberculture by nurses as storyteller. A unique aspect of cyberspace that begs for input from experienced and knowledgeable nurses is health-related sites. I wish to examine authorship of several high traffic health sites to investigate the frequency, presence and scope of nurses as writers, experts and online teachers of reliable health care information. Other expressions of presence will also be searched for, including self employed nurse sites, personal sites, schools of nursing, nursing organizations, theory related sites and so on.
Cyberculture is an important topic to nurses who are being encouraged to become proficient in various aspects of nursing informatics. The knowledge gained from this project will assist me to ground myself in the current culture of nursing that exists in the online environment.
Bell, D. (2001). An introduction to cybercultures. New York: Routledge.
Hamilton, C. (2003). Personal communication. February 2003.
Lun, K.C., Loke, E., Lee, Y.N., Tan, T.W. & Chan, F.K. (n/d) Cyberspace hospital.
Wise, R. (2000). Multimedia: a critical introduction. London: Routledge.