“New technologies have extended the reach of our interactions beyond the geographical limitations of traditional communities, but the increase in flow of information does not obviate the need for community. In fact, it expands the possibilities for community and calls for new kinds of communities based on shared practice.”Etienne Wenger

Some days I yearn for that day 10 years ago when I opened my first AOL email account and heard that sensitive, yet robotic voice say, “you’ve got mail!” I would dial in once a day, be connected after 5 minutes and than sign off when I had finished, hearing again that same voice say, “goodbye.” It was simple and easy and the beginning of a commitment to a community of learning.

Times have changed however, as we all know. Yet social media like social networks, Facebook, twitter, and wikis haven’t exactly been welcomed with open arms by everyone. In fact, the emergence of such movements has produced a bit of resistance, fear, frustration, criticism and maybe too, a yearning for something different. Why? For one thing, it asks users to take a risk – a leap of faith into an environment that demands participation, collaboration and openness within and between others. This move can be uncomfortable, but also a move that can promote a more in-depth understanding of various organizational forms by encouraging the exploration of alternative, and more collaborative, communicative practices about health, medicine and clinical practice.

Because we are excited about such possibilities, we are headed to Toronto for the Medicine 2.0 Congress in a few weeks where we will be presenting a project titled, “Clinical Care in the ‘Spaces in Between’: Web 2.0 and the Communicative Reformation of Clinical Practice.” You are welcome to read the abstract here.

The conference is unique in its bringing together of participants from 18 countries including academics, software and Web 2.0 developers, biomedical researchers, consultants, business leaders, health professionals, consumers and payors. Together, we will look beyond the health 2.0 hype to identify the evidence of what works and what doesn’t in communicating effective care within and between communities. These discussions, interestingly are facilitated by the conference’s philosophy of openness, which is very conducive to discussions, networking and collaboration. The conference will begin with several noteworthy keynote speakers and then will cover topics ranging from virtual communities, personal health records, health information, clinical practice, medical education, medical learning and much more.

For those of you attending, we are looking forward to meeting you and generating some stimulating discussions together! And for those of you who aren’t attending, we’d love to hear from you as well about the conference, our abstract or your own commitments to a shared practice within these communities. After all, new conversations like new technologies can extend the reach of our interactions beyond the limitations of traditional communities thereby underscoring our shared concern and passion for improving clinical practice.

My AOL and “you’ve got mail” days have expanded and despite my own resistance, I have found much delight in the uniqueness of new technologies and new forms of organizing for, if nothing else, their commitment to a community of learning.

Hope to see you in Toronto!

Thanks to Dru Bloomfield and slowburn for the images.

Carey Candrian