Networking has certainly advanced over the 10 years of this column!! Today's hot topic is the highly interactive, user-controlled Web 2.0 that includes applications such as Wikis (McCartney, 2008a), Social Networking (McCartney, 2008b), and Second Life.
What is Second Life?
Web users can create that wished-for "second life" (for more than dragon games) in the online virtual world through Linden Lab's Second Life (http://secondlife.com/). Second Life is a simulated 3-dimensional virtual world created by multiple users (residents) who interact with each other in real time. Residents are known as avatars, an ancient term that has come to mean one's "online persona" in the digital world. Participants subscribe and create their own avatar persona in a design studio, including a first name, last name, personal appearance (person, animal, or animated icon), and numerous personal characteristics. Avatars can navigate Second Life by walking, running, jumping, flying, or teleporting!!
Creating an avatar and interacting in Second Life is free; however, residents can conduct business with the Second Life currency called Linden Dollars (L$), which can be exchanged for US dollars. Residents can purchase consumer goods and virtual land called an "island" (for an initial purchase price and a monthly fee). Second Life became public in 2003 and now has millions of users around the world. For a brief introduction to Second Life, you can watch the YouTube video actually filmed in Second Life (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b72CvvMuD6Q). Residents can create groups and communicate with chat and instant messaging. Virtual classrooms provide real-world university education (including nursing) for avatars that register and participate in courses. Corporations participate in the virtual world (see Business Communicators of Second Life at http://freshtakes.typepad.com/sl_communicators/).
Second Life for Nurses
In addition to coursework, Second Life provides opportunities for professional education and patient support. Recently, a professional conference of 47 international surgeons was held in Second Life (Leong, Kinross, Taylor, & Purkayastha, 2008). The sponsor purchased virtual land for a 2-hour interaction, and no registration, travel, or hotel costs were incurred. Could this be the future of professional conferences? The Heart Murmur Sim site provides education, practice, and testing on cardiac auscultation (Boulos, Hetherington, & Wheeler, 2007). Could this be the future of clinical education? An extensive consumer health site (Healthinfo Island) is sponsored by the National Library of Medicine, and a public health site is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Boulos et al., 2007). Second Life has private therapeutic communities for children who have Asperger's syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy and victims of abuse, where individuals can share experiences and coping strategies (Gorini, Gaggioli, Vigna, & Riva, 2008). What happens when individuals create an avatar without physical disabilities? Could a child learn to manage diabetes in the virtual world? What privacy and ethical issues are important for nurses to consider in virtual telehealth?
Consider creating your own experience in Second Life and imagine how we might use the virtual world to promote maternal/child health.