Human are tribal animals. We are designed to live in small communities about of about 150 individuals according to anthropologist Robin Dunbar and his research. We seek out like-minded individuals that share a common belief system. Technology has made finding people with specific interests easier than ever.
I recently found a tribe for myself. People who like to make their own ultra light backpacking gear. It’s a rather small community of bloggers, Youtubers and forum folks. With out the internet I never would have found them, and they changed my life. At least my backpacking life, I went from a 45-pound pack to a 25-pound pack by reading and communicating with these backpacking nerds.
The most important aspect of tribes is not defining what we believe but rather people being interested in what other people have to say. I can scream from the mountaintops about the importance of using a Tyvek ground sheet purchased at Home Depot but no one will care and no one will listen. But when I get on a forum or message board with other backpackers they want to hear about the newest DIY ground sheet. That is the amazing part of tribes, it's about people listening to you, and actually enjoying it.
In a educational context this means that researchers can collaborate a much more easily though the creation of a tribe of individuals who are enthusiastic and passionate about a particular topic. I belong to a couple tribes of people from around the country who are actively looking at ways to improve online education for student with disabilities. With out the internet I would just meeting with my one other colleague at UCLA getting nowhere fast.
This is not to say that tribes are all looking to make the world a more tolerant place with lightweight hiking gear. Think about the tribe that has brought Donald Trump to power. Trump did not create the disenfranchised white working class who are fearful of immigration, he merely brought this tribe together and gave them a voice. The internet has allowed for people to self segregate by the sites they visit and the media they consume creating an echo chamber of your own thoughts and ideals. Tribal thinking can bring out some of the best in people but also some of the worst. We as educators can use our tribes to help advance our ideas and build spaces where people can feel safe to share concepts.