Although times change, there are certain human elements that survive through the ages. These elements include the need for expression, companionship, involvement, connection, and information. The avenues by which humans engage in these social practices have evolved, and with the dawn of the Information Age we are seeing the emergence of new forms of computer mediated communication (CMC), with Weblogs (or blogs) being a manifestation of this transformation. This chapter deals with these Information and Communicative Technologies (ICT), and more specifically, how blogs are being used by African Americans on the positive side of the digital divide to create virtual “third places”, to rebuild aspects of community dialogue that have been lost in the physical “real-world”. These “third places” arise out of a need for individuals to find a dependable, neutral place of refuge to gather and interact, away from first places (home) and second places (work), often conferring or dealing with issues that may considered too taboo for public discussion by the community at large. With this in mind the researcher identified an issue within the African American community that was of consequence, and yet was not being addressed due to individual or social pressures. The problem that presented itself was the lack of discussion and social support pertaining to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
African American HIV/AIDS Statistics
HIV/AIDS statistics paint a particularly disturbing picture for African American females, due to the fact that they account for a disproportionate number of infections relative to other social groups (Phillips 2005), and 75% of new HIV/AIDS cases within the larger African American population. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), states that HIV/AIDS is among the top 4 causes of death for African American women aged 25–54 years, and the number 1 cause of death for African American women aged 25–34 years (CDC 2006). In 2001, HIV/AIDS was among the top three causes of death for African American men 25-54 years of age, and of persons diagnosed with AIDS since 1995, a smaller percentage of African Americans (60%) were alive after 9 years compared with Whites (70%) (due in part to late diagnosis) (National Institute of Health 2007). Despite these figures, there is still a deafening silence associated with the discussion of the disease, because contraction of the HIV virus is seen as a consequence of behaviors that are stigmatized within the largely religious and conservative African American community (i.e., promiscuity, homosexuality, or drug use), framed within the context of sin and immorality (Baker 1999).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information Age: The period beginning in the last quarter of the 20th century marked by the increased production, transmission, consumption of, and reliance on information.
Third Places: a location that has a role intermediate between the home and the workplace and that allows people to be around other people without being in a structured setting. Examples include coffee shops, pubs, libraries, and public plazas. The essential characteristics of third places are: (1) being on neutral ground, (2) being levelers, (3) conversation being the main activity, with the mood being playful, (4) accessible, (5) are a home away from home, and have “regulars”
Digital Divide: Chasm between individuals who have access to information via computers and the Internet, and those that do not.
Health Information Seeking: The search and retrieval of messages that help to reduce uncertainty regarding health status and construct a social and personal (cognitive) sense of health.
Weblogs: Frequently modified Web pages in which dated entries are listed in reverse chronological sequence.
Virtual Communities of Interest: Self-organizing virtual communities that are born of individuals who share similar interests on a topic, or topics, that is independent of their geographic location.
Blackosphere: Blogs that are by, and principally for, Black people, focusing not only upon Black people but upon people and issues deemed relevant to the Black people who write these blogs and post comments.