Neotribalism is a sociological concept that postulates that human beings have evolved to live in tribal society, as opposed to mass society, and thus will naturally form social networks constituting new tribes. – Wikipedia

This notion of the neotribe originated from French socialist, Michel Maffesoli. In his book, The Time of the Tribes, translated from Le Temps des Tribes. the Forward describes a context for his idea.

Between the time one might leave one’s family or intimates in the morning and the time when one returns, each person enters into a series of group situations each of which has some degree of self-consciousness. (1996)

Maffesoli distinguishes the differences between anthropological tribes and our contemporary social life. The contemporary social life is “marked by membership of overlapping groups in which the roles one plays become sources of identity which, like masks, provide temporary ‘identifications’.”

What he says here is that when we play different roles in different tribes, we essentially take on a different identity each time acting in the way that a person with their role acts. We are living in a time when the mass has become Little Masses.

In an earlier essay by Maffesoli, Jeux De Masques: Postmodern Tribalism, he identifies “tribes” with the development of micro-groups. The masses no longer constitute as “a group that has been  formed through a common concept of identity”(1988) and this becomes the tension when characterizing sociality. This is due to the fact that when a person acts their role, their individuality comes into question and possibly reduced by the actual persona of the function for this role. This relates back to the metaphor of a mask later mentioned in his The Time of the Tribes.

I think social groups and groups of common people have actually existed for as long as humans have existed. We naturally gravitate towards people who are alike or discuss similar things. Once we associate with certain groups, we also associate with the characteristics of the people in that group. The only difference in postmodernity is that we associate with multiple tribes. Maffesoli writes, “the tribes that crystallize within them are not stable: the people comprising the tribes are able to move from one tribe to another.” I could go even further to say that we belong to many tribes carrying different personas.

He goes into the detail of a society shifting from the culturalization of nature to the naturalization of culture which allows us to study the changes in our society. One observation is that the progressive western model has been globalized and  orientalization of the world has begun. Ongoing studies show that new attitudes are seeping into the whole social fabric in various forms as well as the combination of ideologies. These new attitudes pervade the many  little tribes. Using examples of the eastern influence in Maffesoli’s subject of mass-tribe dialectic, he writes, “This swarming, this seething of culture, results in an unsettling of our individualist and individualizing modes of thought.” The relationship one has with their surrounding is crucial in the behaviour that they partake. Maffesoli uses examples of Japanese trends expressing uniformity and conformity, pointing out that such groups have parameters on sex, appearance, fashion, and even ideology. In the most extreme, “one is participating in the replacement of a rationalized society by a bascially empathetic sociality.”

Collaboration is about empathy towards a community. It’s a sense of the swarm and togetherness. But I also think it’s as much about that as it is about exclusion. As a tribe it has built systems and structures, and for most tribes, people who may not believe or conform could end up being excluded. The vast amount of changes within these communities based on emotion are characterized as ephemeral by Maffesoli.

The “raison d’etre” of the neotribe, according to Maffesoli “refuses to be identified with specific political endeavors, does not conform to any single definite structure.” It only has a goal of the collective interest. I suggest that extreme groups such as cults demonstrate the most obvious form of inconformity and anti-structuralism. The mass population being a part of media culture and social media as a cult is similar.

Maffesoli specifies the dynamics in which symbolic meaning is created:

In the solitude inherent in all urban areas, the icon is a familiar image that acts as a point of reference and becomes a part of daily life. It is the center of a complex symbolic and concrete order in which everyone has a role to play within the framework of a global stage.”

The icon symbolizing meaning and the media, similar to cults utilizes this to target its audiences. The connotation of territory remains in every tribe formation. Maffesoli’s point in this essay is that a society based on dynamics such as space, body, and feelings “risks seeing its essential values reversed.”

In this unit, we are to find a tribe and research through various methods in order to understand them. So it would be interesting to work with a group that I am completely new to, and learn about their way of life. We often have to do this in design as we are designing for others unlike ourselves.

A few tribes I have been thinking about:

Ecovillages, dance collaborations, Mars One, travel groups, and others who I’ve already been working with but not necessarily collaborated with on a project.

Understanding the tribe

Findhorn Foundation

Understanding the tribe 1

Kalos Collectives

The reason why I chose these groups is because they somewhat relate to my personal ideologies but they are radically different in their way of life. I have admiration for these groups but more so, curiosity.
Some terms to constrain collaborations are ephemerality, time, and engagement.  A tribe is self-sustaining and the members each have different skills that contribute to the tribe but also take from others. But mainly building on a certain central theme or goal.