Two thumbs up from the greenwich mean tribe

eastern standard time book cover

Finished the ebook earlier this week and thought it was a very good read, had some genuine clever and thought-out ideas. Ending was a little rushed for my tastes but pretty much from 2 your hooked and wont stop till you hit the last hour. One of my favourate parts from the book. Ant talks in group therapy about life as he sees it…

“It’s like this,” I said. “It used to be that the way you chose your friends was by finding the most like-minded people you could out of the pool of people who lived near to you. If you were lucky, you lived near a bunch of people you could get along with. This was a lot more likely in the olden days, back before, you know, printing and radio and such. Chances were that you’d grow up so immersed in the local doctrine that you’d never even think to question it. If you were a genius or a psycho, you might come up with a whole new way of thinking, and if you could pull it off, you’d either gather up a bunch of people who liked your new idea or you’d go somewhere else, like America, where you could set up a little colony of people who agreed with you. Most of the time, though, people who didn’t get along with their neighbors just moped around until they died.”

“Fast-forward to the age of email. Slowly but surely, we begin to mediate almost all of our communication over networks. Why walk down the hallway to ask a coworker a question, when you can just send email? You don’t need to interrupt them, and you can keep going on your own projects, and if you forget the answer, you can just open the message again and look at the response. There’re all kinds of ways to interact with our friends over the network: we can play hallucinogenic games, chat, send pictures, code, music, funny articles, metric fuckloads of porn… The interaction is high-quality! Sure, you gain three pounds every year you spend behind the desk instead of walking down the hall to ask your buddy where he wants to go for lunch, but that’s a small price to pay.

“So you’re a fish out of water. You live in Arizona, but you’re sixteen years old and all your neighbors are eighty-five, and you get ten billion channels of media on your desktop. All the good stuff—everything that tickles you—comes out of some clique of hyperurban club-kids in South Philly. They’re making cool art, music, clothes. You read their mailing lists and you can tell that they’re exactly the kind of people who’d really appreciate you for who you are. In the old days, you’d pack your bags and hitchhike across the country and move to your community. But you’re sixteen, and that’s a pretty scary step.

“Why move? These kids live online. At lunch, before school, and all night, they’re comming in, talking trash, sending around photos, chatting. Online, you can be a peer. You can hop into these discussions, play the games, chord with one hand while chatting up some hottie a couple thousand miles away.

“Only you can’t. You can’t, because they chat at seven AM while they’re getting ready for school. They chat at five PM, while they’re working on their homework. Their late nights end at three AM. But those are their local times, not yours. If you get up at seven, they’re already at school, ’cause it’s ten there.

“So you start to f with your sleep schedule. You get up at four AM so you can chat with your friends. You go to bed at nine, ’cause that’s when they go to bed. Used to be that it was stock brokers and journos and factory workers who did that kind of thing, but now it’s anyone who doesn’t fit in. The geniuses and lunatics to whom the local doctrine tastes wrong. They choose their peers based on similarity, not geography, and they keep themselves awake at the same time as them. But you need to make some nod to localness, too—gotta be at work with everyone else, gotta get to the bank when it’s open, gotta buy your groceries. You end up hardly sleeping at all, you end up sneaking naps in the middle of the day, or after dinner, trying to reconcile biological imperatives with cultural ones. Needless to say, that alienates you even further from the folks at home, and drives you more and more into the arms of your online peers of choice.

“So you get the Tribes. People all over the world who are really secret agents for some other time zone, some other way of looking at the world, some other zeitgeist. Unlike other tribes, you can change allegiance by doing nothing more that resetting your alarm clock. Like any tribe, they are primarily loyal to each other, and anyone outside of the tribe is only mostly human. That may sound extreme, but this is what it comes down to.

Oh quick note, Cory put the book out under a Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial 1.0 licence. So unfortually no one can alter the work, which is a shame – as there some parts I would love to mess with…

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.