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Electronic Tribes

The Virtual Worlds of Geeks, Gamers, Shamans, and Scammers

By Tyrone L. Adams and Stephen A. Smith

Publication Year: 2008

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. In Electronic 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 MySpace.com, craftster.org, 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.

Published by: University of Texas Press

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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...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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INTRODUCTION. Where Is the Shaman?

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pp. 1-7

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...


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pp. 9

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CHAPTER 1. “A Tribe by Any Other Name . . .”

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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...

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CHAPTER 2. Mimetic Kinship: Theorizing Online “Tribalism”

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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...

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CHAPTER 3. Electronic Tribes (E-Tribes): Some Theoretical Perspectives and Implications

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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...

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CHAPTER 4. Revisiting the Impact of Tribalism on Civil Society: An Investigation of the Potential Benefi ts of Membership in an E-Tribe on Public Discourse

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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...


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pp. 77

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CHAPTER 5. Theorizing the E-Tribe on MySpace.com

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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...

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CHAPTER 6. Don’t Date, Craftsterbate: Dialogue and Resistance on craftster.org

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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...

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CHAPTER 7. Guild Life in the World of Warcraft: Online Gaming Tribalism

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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...

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CHAPTER 8. At the Electronic Evergreen: A Computer-Mediated Ethnography of Tribalism in a Newsgroup from Montserrat and Afar

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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...


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pp. 141

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CHAPTER 9. “Like a neighborhood of sisters”: Can Culture Be Formed Electronically?

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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...

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CHAPTER 10. Gerald M. Phillips as Electronic Tribal Chief: Socioforming Cyberspace

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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...

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CHAPTER 11. Digital Dreamtime, Sonic Talismans: Music Downloading and the Tribal Landscape

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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 Aboriginal...

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CHAPTER 12. Magic, Myth, and Mayhem: Tribalization in the Digital Age

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pp. 191-203

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...


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pp. 205

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CHAPTER 13. Mundanes at the Gate . . . and Perverts Within: Managing Internal and External Threats to Community Online

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pp. 207-228

One of the first things Mary Sue Slasher does every morning is to check her friends list on LiveJournal.com 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...

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CHAPTER 14. Brotherhood of Blood: Aryan Tribalism and Skinhead Cybercrews

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pp. 229-250

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...

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CHAPTER 15. Radical Tribes at Warre: Primitivists on the Net

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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...

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CHAPTER 16. A “Tribe” Migrates Crime to Cyberspace: Nigerian Igbos in 419 E-Mail Scams

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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...

About the Contributors

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pp. 289-294


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pp. 295-315

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793965
E-ISBN-10: 0292793960
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292717732
Print-ISBN-10: 0292717733

Page Count: 331
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Communication and technology.
  • Online social networks.
  • Internet -- Social aspects.
  • Tribes.
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