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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.