David Bowie would have been 70 this month and will be remembered for his unique music and fashion style, ‘Starman’ among favourites, but also his stance on the social impact of the internet. Nearly 20 years ago, in 1998, he launched Bowie.net and became the first major artist to create his own internet service, to distribute his songs online and to use the Web to communicate directly and collaborate with fans.
Ten years before him, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard published in France in 1987, The Ecstasy of Communication. It is a decisive, compact description of what it means to be ‘wired’ in our braver-than-brave new world, where knowledge has been superseded by information, subject by object, and violence by terror.
These two examples expose in a most illustrative way the pros and cons of living in the era of social ecstasy. Social media have given us a great vehicle to collaborate, exchange views and meet people socially that we would never have had the opportunity to meet in person. Initiatives such as @weNurses, @weMidwives and @weAHPs have got us a long way in engaging with our sector, understanding frontline issues and engaging locally and globally with topics of common interest. But social media have perhaps moved us to a space where sometimes the ‘hyperreal’ becomes ‘real’, where a view becomes evidence.
The social space is entirely relevant to the work of our Council. As a membership organisation with members across the UK, we use it every day for engagement and dissemination. But social ecstasy comes with a prize. There is a question of how far we can go with blended learning, where and how academic research fits into social media and how we keep the balance between online fora and face to face contact.
I know where I stand with this. I am hugely energised to have been introduced to members through social media over the last weeks but what I am truly looking forward to is meeting them face to face in Edinburgh at our Annual General Meeting next week.