e-tribes: is there anybody … out there? - April 18, 2010 by kylabrettle

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.

My Tribe is go! - April 10, 2010 by kylabrettle

My pack, my posse, my people, my network, my mob, my family… my tribe.

A year on from the death of philosopher and anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, whose seminal work explored the complexities of kinship, mythology and identity, we re-examine this notion of community and self.

In the flesh or via technology the kinship groups we belong to form across intersecting fault-lines in our lives – blood, place, interest, time, happenstance and more. Enmeshed with our sense of self, those we belong to and who belong to us construct, deconstruct, teach, reflect, know or perhaps don’t know us at all.

Explored subjectively or objectively the theme of ‘my tribe’ taps into myth and storytelling traditions along with the rationality of survival and darker implications of drawing a line in the sand between ‘us’ and ‘them’ …

ABC Radio National’s 360documentaries launches ‘My Tribe’ – a participatory project and open public exhibition exploring community, identity and belonging.

In association with the ABC’s town square, the Pool and RMIT University 360documentaries is calling on the public to join My Tribe and share their story:

“Tell us about a group of people or community that you belong to or love or identify with. They might be your relatives, your friends, your enemies, live near you or on the other side of the world. Maybe you share a common interest or you’ve been thrown together by happenstance.”

My Tribe needs your tribe – and makers from all walks and any level of experience are encouraged to submit work in any media – writing, audio, video, photos or any other form via a web link.” (About My Tribe)

All eligible contributions to the My Tribe Open Exhibition will automatically be entered into the competition to be featured on the ABC’s My Tribe Showcase – entered work could be broadcast on radio, screened at Federation Square in Melbourne or may even end up in a touring exhibition on Urban Screens around the world.

Righto – so what’s with the blog, then?

Well, the blog is one way of exploring, keeping track and telling the story of My Tribe. This blog written by me – Kyla Brettle – and represents my point of view. I’m the producer, of sorts, of the My Tribe project – I say ‘of sorts’ because I’m just one node in the network – My Tribe is a collaborative venture dependent on, and pulled together through the efforts and contributions of many.

In this blog I’ll be reporting on work entered into the My Tribe exhibition and drawing attention to pieces I think are really good. I will also be digging through the ABC archives on behalf of My Tribe – looking for theme-relevant programs to add to the overall collection – as well as material that can be remixed by My Tribe contributors.

I’ll also be using this space to develop my own contribution to the exhibition – this will be radio documentary around 50-minutes long, but beyond that, I don’t know much about it … So I’m looking forward to drawing inspiration from the public work submitted to My Tribe and discovering my own program by researching and documenting possible directions it could take. Along the way, I’m hoping to put ideas and materials back into the My Tribe work-in-progress group which in turn may provide some food for thought for another maker.

image: poster created by My Tribe Community Managers; Dengli Lim, Camilla Aurel-Smith, Pei Huan