The New York Times explores the cultural and anthropologic modes found in online social networks.
Michael Wesch, who teaches cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, spent two years living with a tribe in Papua New Guinea, studying how people forge social relationships in a purely oral culture. Now he applies the same ethnographic research methods to the rites and rituals of Facebook users.
“In tribal cultures, your identity is completely wrapped up in the question of how people know you,” he says. “When you look at Facebook, you can see the same pattern at work: people projecting their identities by demonstrating their relationships to each other. You define yourself in terms of who your friends are.”
In tribal societies, people routinely give each other jewelry, weapons and ritual objects to cement their social ties. On Facebook, people accomplish the same thing by trading symbolic sock monkeys, disco balls and hula girls.
In other words, useless online trinkets equals a hand made spear? Uh, bullshit. The value in the online trinket is purely symbolic, a slight recognition that you exist and are important to someone. A spear on the other hand, is a prized tool that helps ensure one’s very survival.
On a mostly unrelated note, how smart was DDB to name their interactive practice, Tribal DDB?