Tribe (Internet)

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A social network diagram displaying tribes clustered by friendship ties among a set of Facebook users.

The term tribe or digital tribe[1] is used as a slang term for an unofficial community of people who share a common interest, and usually who are loosely affiliated with each other through social media or other internet mechanisms. The term is related to "tribe," which traditionally refers to people closely associated in both geography and genealogy.

The concept is closely related to social networking, and dates back to at least 2003, when was launched. Cory Doctorow wrote a science fiction novel that expounds on this concept released in 2004 called Eastern Standard Tribe.

Research into tribes[edit]

Analysis and identification of tribes often relies heavily on algorithms and techniques from statistical physics, computational biology and network science[2]

Language profiling[edit]

Communication between and within tribes of Twitter users clustered based on word usage. Tribes tend to communicate more within than between themselves.[3]

Not only do Twitter tribes have mutual interests,[4] but they also share potentially subconscious language features as found in the 2013 study by researchers from Royal Holloway University of London and Princeton.[3][5]

The campfire[edit]

Each tribe has an online-platform (such as Flickr or Tumblr), called campfire around which they gather. These campfires tend to enable one or more of the following three tribal activities:[1]

However, some brands are building their own tribes around platforms outside of these.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Cory Doctorow, Eastern Standard Tribe, TOR, 1 March 2004, ISBN 0-7653-0759-6
  • Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Portfolio Hardcover, October 16, 2008, ISBN 1-59184-233-6