The Visible Knowledge Project

I did enjoy Seth Godin’s TED talk on The Tribes We Lead. I liked the idea that Seth spoke of, being on the cusp of change (back in 2009), and though we have moved on somewhat from this time we have so much further to go with regard to the Tribes that we ourselves are part of and our abilities as members of these tribes to make changes.

In 2009, I vaguely remember, that if you wanted to be a part of a specific group you joined forums and engaged in a somewhat 2 dimensional way through chat responses and possibly via instant messenger. We were always reliant on the person we wished to interact with being ‘online’ and present to respond to our questions and conversation. The conversation and interactions at times were slow and we never really got to know much about the person that we interacted with other than the area of interest that we shared. This was due to the concerns with sharing personal information online and never really trusting the ‘2D person’ behind the keyboard. As Clay Shirkydiscussed in his TED Talk ‘Institutions v’s Collaboration, Social Media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have provided us with a means of creating a more in-depth means of creating communities. We now have the ability to engage in a more personable way with those who share our passions. I can now join a group (closed or public) that shares my ideas. I can engage with people real time  (using voice calling, video calling, messenger, share images & docs) and have them respond almost immediately) due to notifications they receive on their devices. I can then build a deeper relationship with the person directly by adding them as a friend and carrying on the conversation at a more personal level.  In this way I can build relationships with people in any part of the world that share and foster my ideas and me theirs. I can effectively build a silo for my interests whom those I live with may never know of.

I may have gone off on a tangent below and my focus went from tribes as online interest-specific focus groups. I find it easier to put these concepts in the real world scenarios that I see. Apologies that I have gone a little off topic with regard the two videos.

Online Tribe creation / Community creation is something that appeals to me, not in a deviant way (though I am sure you wouldn’t judge.), but in a more community focus led means. My background is teaching and working with students, some of whom are on the Autism Spectrum. I see students with Asperger’s as continuously being excluded from society due to their interests being focused heavily in a particular area. For some its dinosaurs for others it can be Animè, the focus areas can be anything. Their peers within their school may find their constant references to interests boring and may be less and less likely to engage with them over time. Asperger’s can prevent relationships to be formed with peers. While it may not be intentional, this alienation of students on the ASD scale, feed into their poor social skills and is detrimental to their abilities to interact within society. With the advancements in technology these students can now join an online community, which shares their interests and doesn’t have the same social interaction cues and requirements that are necessary in their physical environments. They are able to engage at their emotional levels with peers that may also share their ‘social limitations’.

These online tribes may become for some the only society in which they are happy or even interact. It may become the only accepting community that understands the need of that person and welcomes them for whom they are. These tribes form the basis of a support network and while the movements may not be seen as world changing, the group itself can become the world for some.

While I do like the idea of an online support network for those students facing social exclusion, I have an internal argument taking place. I am happy that students with ASD are finding their peers to share and interact with, however is it giving us as their society a free pass? ‘Keep them in their silos, interacting with their own kind?” Physical societies only interact at a specific level and not differentiating with all abilities needs?

I question whether governments see these communities formed to provide help and support online (much like charities) as a way of negating any funding and investment which may be due. If we as a society are willing to ‘help ourselves to find ease through focus led communities’ does it lessen the burden, which should be borne by the government as the institute? Do collaborative free groups allow for less institutional dependence or financial support?

Online Tribes can be the greatest support to some, while at the same time being a pacifier used by societies to neglect social responsibilities.  By allowing students with Asperger’s to live only in the parameters of onlinecommunities, are we doing them a disservice? If we are not educating their ‘normal’ peers to engage, support and welcome them in their physical environments, are we effectively creating multiple societies, which branch off into various groupings, everyone in their own silo community?


Digital Humanities