All the time spent at SL seems to have the effect of drawing me in, becoming more intrigued by the small communities, the obvious talent and experience, the questions wanting to be answered. My father said once that large cities are just a bunch of small neighborhoods, cobbled together - and while we are certainly that, it's a more complex idea than it seems. We are more (are capable of being more) than the sum of our parts. Questions that occur about providing services, for example, cannot be answered in the same way as in RL, yet many of the same questions (ethical, practical, economic) are present. Collaborations are made easier both by our relative proximity, and by the idea of SL as a playbox, a place where we can experiment, talk about pet ideas and dreams. Where a librarian who's buttoned down every day can show up to work in drag, slit down- and up- to there, with purple hair. I know reams have been written about identity, and about identity in virtual environments. And reputation - ! Here, suddenly, I'm talking to heavy-duty researchers, then newbies with only the most basic understanding about technology, then to an S&M garbed avatar (and these can all be the same person). It's sometimes hard to grasp what is being crafted here.
Last night I had a conversation that's a familiar one to me as a medical librarian who has spent time immersed with web-based communities. The issue was trust, and the feeling expressed was skepticism about the RL medical community. To generalize - there is a sentiment that 'we the people' and clinicians are eons apart, that our identities are lost in the clinical process, - that diagnosis and treatment often ignore our individual realities. To some extent, I believe that the explosive trend shown by Pew reflects individuals' distrust and lack of information - so that they search for information as self-defense, and as a way to exert some control over relationships where the power imbalance has always been enormous. Hundreds and thousands of 'us' showing up at the doctor's offices with our printouts is like a decentralized army - demanding that the interactions be two way dialogues.