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Bored? Don’t have a date? Forgot have that relationship to end all others? Think it might be that time?
Don’t wander off into the wilderness alone – use your networks – ask a friend or family member to recommend a good person they know. Encouraging your friends to be match-makers and getting introduced to an acquaintance with good connections may sound like something straight out of a Jane Austen novel – but it is also the core idea behind a very new online dating scheme called the 100 dates project. Let tribe contributor Rose take you through the details in a gorgeous radiophonic documentary called ‘Love in the Cloud’ – highly recommended listening.
I’d be hazarding a guess that the founders of the 100 date project have done some research into social network theory and the importance of ‘weak ties’. If you haven’t heard of social network theory then the chances are that ‘a’ you know someone who has and ‘b’ you have heard of it as of ‘six degrees of separation’.
Basically, it’s a way of mapping and understanding our social connections. A theorist might start by sketching your personal network by indicating you as a dot in the centre of the page and drawing lines from you to other dots representing your close friends and family ties network. These are your ‘strong ties’ – people you trust and tend to rely on in a tight spot. Beyond your strong ties would be another rim of nodes (representing people) that you don’t consider yourself as ‘close’ with – but who you would invite if you were having a big party. Together, these two levels of connection represent your ‘sociogram’.
Where social network theory gets really interesting, though, is if you mapped not just your own, but all your friends social networks (and their friends as well) to indicate all the interrelated links. This map would reveal your ‘weak ties’ (people you know via other people). Ethan Watters describes the image well: “this diagram would look something like a picture of fireworks finale, when all the rockets explode at the same time.” p104 (Urban Tribes 2003). The theory goes that if you included everyone you know, and everyone these people know (for six levels) then every person on the planet would be in your map. Nifty, eh?
Now, ‘weak ties’ are important in all this because they are (not just people but) ‘social resources’ (sources of information, opportunities and potential mates) you can draw on via your social network – even though you may not know them personally. Sociologist Mark Granovetter argues that the number of weak ties in your network is critical to success in getting a job and finding a house to rent. You might use this network to find a good dentist (ie a friend of a friend knows an excellent one) or, as the 100 dates project implies, use your ‘weak ties’ to meet someone new.
Ethan Watters writes about all this much more eloquently than I in Urban Tribes – but if you are after the crunchy version, then do download and read Mark Granovetters 1973 article, “The Strength of Weak Ties”.
Explore the My Tribe open exhibition and … go in search of the lesbian community in outer suburban Melbourne – get dressed up as a Japanese anime character – clash mallets in a game of bike polo – and remember to treasure what is important – for your tribe is your sanctuary.
My Tribe is humming. This week some great submissions in audio, text and still image and two contributors make a lovely, quite spontaneous, connection between a photograph and a poem.
It’s getting a bit buzzy at My Tribe HQ too – we’re gearing up to our first urban screen showcase. This is a package of My Tribe work for the big screen at Federation Square in Melbourne. The first screening will happen on May 28 at 8pm – so we are urging those interested in developing work for this space to submit it soon. Find event details on our Facebook page.
Work suitable for ‘My Tribe, My Screen’ isn’t limited to video. We are looking to include still image, text and audio and are exploring ways to weave them together. Making content for an outdoor public screen with a transitory audience is different to making work for film/TV – so we’ll be seting up a Pool Forum to share information and discuss the creative challenges and quirks.
Also – what three works should make the next My Tribe Showcase? We need to decide by this Wednesday (May 5, 2010) and want you to help us identify the strongest submissions. Tell us your pick by voting with your thumbs and posting to the My Tribe Facebook page wall.
As all this goes on my bedside table is getting heavy with books and ideas to investigate further. Encouraged by interesting comments on the blog from Sean and Gabrielle – I peered into online communities and somehow found myself at a rather pointy end of the stick – reading Henry Jenkin’s Convergence Culture; where old and new media collide (2007). It was a good read and held quite a few ideas relevant and resonant for My Tribe – particularly theories about how tribes become more than the sum of its parts.
The chapter, Spoiling Survivor; anatomy of a knowledge community – is a detailed analysis of a community which gathers online to figure out who will win the current series of the popular reality TV program, Survivor. The community pools their knowledge and become a powerful source of information that keeps the producers of Survivor on their toes … Jenkins refers to this knowledge as collective intelligence:
No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity” Collective intelligence refers to this ability of virtual communities to leverage the combined expertise of their members. What we cannot know or do on our own, we may know be able to do collectively. And this organization of audiences into what Levy calls knowledge communities allows them to exert a greater aggregate power in their negotiations with media producers (pp27)
Jenkins explains that when collective intelligence is scrutinised and vetted and finally agreed on – it becomes shared knowledge. A great example of a really successful shared knowledge repository is Wikipedia.
So, who is your knowledge community – what does your brains trust tell you?
Fed Square image by Contributor Tasha Traazil
Who shares your electronic universe, is on your digital radar and is part of your blogosphere?
If you’re lucky your online tribe will be as rich and as diverse as Contributor GB’s community of bloggers. In My blogosphere is a rainbow flavoured ice-cream GB introduces us to the group who inform, inspire and delight her online. GB’s perceptive and playful bios steer us as a good hostess would through a cocktail party of links to poets, artists and writers. It’s a lovely piece; GB has that knack of sounding like a friend when she writes.
This got me all inspired about exploring electronic tribes – so trotted off to the library … I stumbled across a very different approach to the term and quite an interesting definition of an electronic tribe written by Ronald E.Rice:
Tribes are more organized than bands, but less than chiefdoms or communities. Tribes coalesce around conflicts with outsiders over scarce resources. Civilization weakens tribes, increases resources and promotes individualism. Tribes are associated with war, civilization with peace. The rejection of mainstream civilization may also mean racism, stereotyping, eco-brutalism. Tribes self-identify as unique, with shared affinities, and are often narrow, exclusionary, undemocratic, and antagonistic to open debate. Tribes are homogeneous and autonomous with common speech, culture, and territory. Tribes involved extensive hierarchies of status, poser, gender, age, fears, taboos. Tribalism may involve fragmentation, struggles, competition and hostility.
Alternatively, tribes may encourage individual identity; there may be only a little formal structuring, and that passed primarily on frequency of interaction. Tribe members are empowered within the tribe, through collective responses and through projecting identities into the tribal network. Tribalism may reduce hierarchy and inequality. Tribes have fluid boundaries externally, and heterarchies (webs, networks) instead of hierarchies (strict vertical structures) internally. Tribes are not amenable to centralized control and persuasion. Tribes may not have historical reality beyond becoming a conceptual and political artifact of colonial relations with indigenous political elements.
E-tribes may be similar to or different from online discussion groups, forums, and communities. They may represent, in the modern world, a retribalization and return to affiliation groups; they may be quite similar to “lifestyles” or both represent and foster “fictive kinship” ties. E-tribes may consist primarily of those with strong shared interest, and either few ties or strong ties. But people may move from one online tribe to another, or even become members of multiple e-tribes (nearly impossible in their real-life counterparts). Forward pp.viii
This is the definition of an online tribe that emerges in Electronic Tribes: The Virtual Worlds of Geeks, Gamers, Shamans and Scammers – a collection of academic essays exploring a mix of online neo-tribes ranging from World of Warcraft gamers to Skinhead Cybercrews and tribes that form in the social network, Myspace. The book tackles questions like; the difference between online tribes and online communities; the social impact online tribes on offline relationships and how group norms and behaviours develop.
I particularly enjoyed Thomas Brignall’s essay, ‘Guild Life in the World of Warcraft: Online Gaming Tribalism’. Brignall describes his experiences going undercover as a hard core gamer in World of Warcraft (WOW) for over fourteen weeks – all in the name of researching tribal organization and behaviours. Would like to investigate this one further and might see if I can contact this fellow…
If you are interested in WOW I recommend listening to One Big LAN Party by Tribe Contributor Muhdshamir and Stephanie Powell. It’s a documentary about isolation and community in WOW … listen and you will find yourself at a rather unexpected gathering.