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Electronic Tribes

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    Electronic Tribes
    Book Description:

    Whether people want to play games and download music, engage in social networking and professional collaboration, or view pornography and incite terror, the Internet provides myriad opportunities for people who share common interests to find each other. The contributors to this book argue that these self-selected online groups are best understood as tribes, with many of the same ramifications, both positive and negative, that tribalism has in the non-cyber world.

    InElectronic Tribes, the authors of sixteen competitively selected essays provide an up-to-the-minute look at the social uses and occasional abuses of online communication in the new media era. They explore many current Internet subcultures, including,, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, music downloading, white supremacist and other counterculture groups, and Nigerian e-mail scams. Their research raises compelling questions and some remarkable answers about the real-life social consequences of participating in electronic tribes. Collectively, the contributors to this book capture a profound shift in the way people connect, as communities formed by geographical proximity are giving way to communities-both online and offline-formed around ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79396-5
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)

    The authors of this edited book—Adams and Smith; Davidov and Andersen; Olaniran; Standerfer; Dewberry; Russ; Brignall; Skinner; Vance; Rosenthal; Zalot; Naughton; Abrams and Grün; Roy; O’Neil; and Kperogi and Duhé—have written a very interesting and diverse collection of essays and studies on “e-tribes.” One indication of this intriguing diversity is some of the words appearing in these chapters. Consider, for example: anarcho-primitivists, craftsters, craftsterbate, cybercrews, cyberhate, cybertime, digital dreamtime, eco-brutalism, electronic tribal warfare, e-tribes, fetish, fictive kinship, flist, gift economy, hierarchies versus heterarchies, Horde versus Alliance, kerfuffle, massively multiplayer online role-playing game environment, mayhem, online shunning, palimpsest, resurrection,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Where Is the Shaman?
    (pp. 1-8)

    The Internet has undergone tremendous transformations since the introduction of the Mosaic browser in 1993 by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Mosaic, the precursor to Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other graphical browsers, opened up the Internet in ways that were never imagined by most of us. Use of the Internet has exploded over the past decade, with penetration in the United States estimated as high as 70 percent. One of the auxiliary consequences of the explosion of the Internet has been the radical transmutation of our conceptions of sociability. The Internet has become the site not only...

  6. PART I. Conceptualizing Electronic Tribes

    • CHAPTER 1 “A Tribe by Any Other Name . . .”
      (pp. 11-20)

      When we initially imagined what this collection of essays might become, we must admit that we were awestruck by the term “tribe.” Before engaging in a discussion of electronic tribes, we will note our intrigue with the term tribe, and how it relates or does not relate to other terms similarly used to describe groups. Tribe is a core construct in sociological, anthropological, and political thought, with hotly contested significations. Its use evokes different imageries, even passions, in different scholarly traditions. We hope that the essays in this book will do the same.

      While it is customary to conceive of...

    • CHAPTER 2 Mimetic Kinship: Theorizing Online “Tribalism”
      (pp. 21-35)

      The term “tribe” is a ticklish one for anthropologists, and one ensconced in layers of its own semiotic mythologies. While “tribes,” historically, have been one step on the “ladder of social evolution” diagrams, transitioning between “bands” and “chiefdoms,” and a term used as a neutral classification by twentieth-century ethnographers like Bronislaw Malinowski, by the 1970s Morton Fried argued for a discourse of tribes as epiphenomena produced through encounters between powerful colonial forces and indigenous polities. Fried argued that “So-called tribal groups . . . are not social organizations whose integrity receded into a remote past; rather the tribalism displayed is...

    • CHAPTER 3 Electronic Tribes (E-Tribes): Some Theoretical Perspectives and Implications
      (pp. 36-57)

      With computer-mediated communication (CMC) media such as the Internet, the barriers of time and geographical boundaries to communication are easily overcome. Thus, the idea of electronic tribe (i.e., e-tribe) is able to take shape where individuals are able to communicate with like-minded people, with the aid of electronic communication media, as if they are within the same geographical area. The flexibility and speed offered by electronic media provide easy access for communicating globally.

      This chapter will offer an overview of global communication and e-tribe development. After discussing the use of CMC and their possibilities for global communication, I will move...

    • CHAPTER 4 Revisiting the Impact of Tribalism on Civil Society: An Investigation of the Potential Benefits of Membership in an E-Tribe on Public Discourse
      (pp. 58-76)

      Many scholars draw a distinct line between tribes and communities regarding whether they contribute to or detract from constructive public dialogue. Tribes are often characterized as ever-narrowing enclaved groups who refuse to interact with people different from themselves. As such, tribes are seen as detrimental to open debate about social issues, and their inability to engage others may result in public policies rarely guided by the voice of the people or democratic action. In contrast, communities often are held up as sites where democratic dialogue may flourish and citizens can come together to create their own solutions to problems that...

  7. PART II. Social Consequences of Electronic Tribalism

    • CHAPTER 5 Theorizing the E-Tribe on
      (pp. 79-95)

      Distance is often an impediment to relationships. In 1963, Edward Hall classified distance based on measurement: public space was 144 inches to the limits of visibility, social space was 48–144 inches, personal space was 18–48 inches, and intimate space was 0–18 inches.¹ Angela and I operated within each one of these zones, but it was the two extremes that seemed to be the most fun and disheartening for both of us. I was a graduate student in Arkansas and she was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. At certain times, we were very close and more...

    • CHAPTER 6 Don’t Date, Craftsterbate: Dialogue and Resistance on
      (pp. 96-109)

      My name is Terri and I’m a craftaholic. Miscellaneous crafty items have taken over my office, displacing those trivial things like books and journal articles. Stuff that most people consider garbage is squirreled away in my inspiration closet—with just a little bit of duct tape, that empty Triscuit box could be turned into a cute purse. Yards of fabric spill off of my bookshelves, covering the beads that I stopped counting when I reached five thousand. I lust over the Janome Memory Craft MC 4400 sewing machine and have fully rationalized the $1,500 cost as a sound investment in...

    • CHAPTER 7 Guild Life in the World of Warcraft: Online Gaming Tribalism
      (pp. 110-123)

      Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) enable an unlimited number of people to simultaneously play, interact, and socialize in an evolving virtual world by means of the Internet.¹ MMORPGs are distant relatives of paper-and-pencil role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and multiuser domain/dungeons (MUDs). One of the latest MMORPG games, World of Warcraft (WOW), has a large fan base and is the current sales leader among MMORPGs. According to Blizzard Entertainment, on the first day of WOW’s release, it sold an estimated 250,000 copies and over 200,000 players created accounts.² In June of 2005, over 2 million paying subscribers...

    • CHAPTER 8 At the Electronic Evergreen: A Computer-Mediated Ethnography of Tribalism in a Newsgroup from Montserrat and Afar
      (pp. 124-140)

      This e-mail arrived in the mailbox file held by my computer whilst I was online. When I read the message, immediately, I was back on Montserrat, back at the Evergreen, where I worked as an ethnographer, listening, recording, and joining in with the latest island gossip. I could feel the heat, smell the scent from the tree mingling with the smell of the beer bottles we all carried. With this e-mail, I was there in a flash—another flashback. These flashbacks come with the e-mails. They can also be triggered by sounds and tremors, such as when my washing machine...

  8. PART III. Emerging Electronic Tribal Cultures

    • CHAPTER 9 “Like a neighborhood of sisters”: Can Culture Be Formed Electronically?
      (pp. 143-158)

      The Internet opens portals into interpersonal and intercultural relations on an unprecedented scale. Interpersonal interactions are multiplying in cyberspace, where disembodied minds meet to discuss shared interests and seek information. When such individuals interact for prolonged periods, do they begin to organize themselves socially?

      The processes have been widely studied by which individuals come to see themselves as sharing an identity as they join together according to race, class, age, interests, ethnicity, religion, or ability, to name a few.¹ When an assemblage of individuals meets nowhere but on a few electronic pages, however, some may doubt that they form a...

    • CHAPTER 10 Gerald M. Phillips as Electronic Tribal Chief: Socioforming Cyberspace
      (pp. 159-176)

      The Internet, with millions of connected computers, exists as real physical space. Yet people refer to it as cyberspace, “the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs,”¹ defining it by the connecting spaces rather than the nodes, its physical connection points. A network has ultimate value in its connectivity, its end points or nodes providing the reason for the network to exist. Examining the worldwide network as connectedterritorypermits a different perspective on what happens when people move to inhabit it. Just as newly discovered territory has historically been populated by humans, cyberspace, too, has become populated....

    • CHAPTER 11 Digital Dreamtime, Sonic Talismans: Music Downloading and the Tribal Landscape
      (pp. 177-190)

      This chapter suggests that the Internet environment offers parallels to the Australian Aboriginal cosmology of Dreamtime, and within the digital Dreamtime can be found songs that bring benefit to the downloader in terms of social relations. Portable media players can be understood as talismanic, like the Aboriginalchuringa.They do not ward off evil or bring good luck, but they can increase knowledge that enhances social status among peers. Music impacts listeners’ identities, and in some cases enables subcultural identities that can be read as tribal, or pan-tribal, as they cut across groups. Our content-based “tribes,” however, are contingent and...

    • CHAPTER 12 Magic, Myth, and Mayhem: Tribalization in the Digital Age
      (pp. 191-204)

      Drawing more than 25 million participants across the world,¹ online role-playing games are a burgeoning branch of the entertainment industry. “Pause life and play” has proven a persuasive slogan for multimedia giant Sony, whose virtual universe, Everquest, attracts more than a hundred thousand paying players in any hour, every day of the year.

      “Magic, Myth, and Mayhem” focuses on immensely popular online role-playing games like the opulent and increasingly lucrative 3D virtual worlds of Everquest, Second Life, Ultima Online, and Project Entropia. Paradoxically, these elaborate, simulated communities are seen to draw on, and revive, elements of folklore. That this should...

  9. PART IV. Cybercrime and Counterculture among Electronic Tribes

    • CHAPTER 13 Mundanes at the Gate . . . and Perverts Within: Managing Internal and External Threats to Community Online
      (pp. 207-228)

      One of the first things Mary Sue Slasher does every morning is to check her friends list on to see what’s going on with her friends and fandoms. Community happens fast online … if she doesn’t keep up, she’ll never catch up. She also checks her e-mail to see whether there are any responses to posts and comments she’d made the previous evening. Because the slash community is so big, it’s impossible to read everything, even in a smaller fandom. However, she has several LJ filters set up to help her manage the constant challenge of filtering through the...

    • CHAPTER 14 Brotherhood of Blood: Aryan Tribalism and Skinhead Cybercrews
      (pp. 229-250)
      JODY M. ROY

      In 2005, law enforcement agencies reported the presence of 21,500 youth gangs in the United States; more than 730,000 teenagers and young adults now hold official status as gang members.¹ Overwhelmingly, American youth gangs are classified as “delinquent” because their purpose, and their members’ bond, centers around for-profit criminal enterprise.² MS-13, Gangster Disciples, Crips, Vice Lords, Latin Kings, and a host of other gangs control much of America’s illicit economy, trafficking drugs and prostitutes, and coordinating complex, new-age criminal schemes like identity-theft rings. Violence, of course, pervades gang life. With multimillion-dollar black markets at stake, today’s gangs fight turf wars...

    • CHAPTER 15 Radical Tribes at Warre: Primitivists on the Net
      (pp. 251-268)

      Why “tribes”? In the anthropological tradition, a tribe was a sociopolitically homogenous and autonomous group. Its members shared patterns of speech, basic cultural characteristics, and a territory. Today the term is universally used and universally undefined. Obviously, there is something in the word that appeals to the imagination: perhaps the idea that we can escape the atomized mass and reconstitute earlier, stronger ties between individuals. In order to understand the formation of online tribal identity, I use the concepts of “boundary” and “field” to analyze economic and political aspects of tribalism in anarcho-primitivist networks.

      Tribalism’s popular resurgence can be traced...

    • CHAPTER 16 A “Tribe” Migrates Crime to Cyberspace: Nigerian Igbos in 419 E-Mail Scams
      (pp. 269-288)

      Nigerian e-mail scams, also known as Advance Fee Fraud or “419”¹ scams in reference to the Southern Nigeria Criminal Code² that criminalizes the impersonation of government officials for pecuniary gratification,³ have been pervading cyberspace since the late 1990s. They have become so ubiquitous that trying to escape from them has now become almost as difficult as trying to hide from daylight: You can do it only with an effort so strenuous it reaches the point of absurdity. The scams inundate mailboxes of millions of e-mail account holders all over the world with such persistence and relentlessness that the U.S. Federal...

  10. About the Contributors
    (pp. 289-294)
  11. Index
    (pp. 295-316)