Screamers: an essay on virtual tribalism (2001/01/03)

Note: I wrote this article for our Grand Prix Legends online racing league back in 2001.

The Screamers. I’ve been part of them for nearly two years now, gone
through some rough times, some so-so times, some “I’m going to quit”
times and through some very fine times indeed. What makes us special?

On the surface, this question is seemingly very easily answered. We’ve
got all age groups covered (from young, yet double-dad roger) to old
Bill “track designing” Tillman, all sorts of occupations (from cool
“mad-science” Kevin to “hands-down-gimme-that-napkin sketch”
carpentering ZZ, with real school teachers to cover the holes in
between ;-).

We cover the spectrum fom notorious singles (Simon “don’t come too
close” Goodwin down to Glenn “you can never have enough kids”
White. We also feature Dave “‘n-email-in-a-month-is-enough” Goodwin
and we have “who’s leading the email race???” Uwe.

Of course, such a group by itself makes for an interesting mix that
won’t start boring you any time soon. there’s always something
happening, there’s always stuff to talk about, from the trivial “my
gfx accelerator is faster than yours” stuff to the very personal,
painful matters which we had an example of just a couple of weeks
back. Yet, the screamers are special in some ways to many of us, and I
include myself here. So what’s special about the screamers?

I think many will agree with me when I would say that we would let
*any* screamers spend a couple of nights in our own homes should the
chance or need arise. Right? Jo inviting me to try out his new english
longbow down on his personal range or a fitting sitting in his
HyperStim? Sure! Glenn popping over to Germany (or ex-Jeff for that
matter), sharing a nice night out in the local pubs? Sure! Dave taking
Todd out to a night to see Birmingham and explore the local pubs? I’m
also quite sure that many of us have had private communication or even
meetings in real life. What does all this have in common?

Trust. Trusting each other on the race track is one thing (a fabulous
example of which I had the priviledge to enjoy recently with Paul at
Silverstone), but Gentlemen, I think there is more to this than that.

What I think we’re witnessing here, at this very moment, is the
creation of a what I would like to call a “virtual tribe”. Agreed,
it’s not a real tribe, it’s not one that is going to share physical
pain as you go through it, one that is not very likely to be in the
neighbourhood should you need a hand or advice changing a tyre on your
car, trying out some freakish new operating system or even needing
advice rasing your kids “the right way” which we all know does not
exist, but still. Nothing more right now than some weird email address
that you can turn to, toss your cookies at or just share joy or sorrow
you have experienced knowing that someone will eventually answer to
anything you post here. Most of the times. 😉 Share the joy, the
pain, the tips, the knowledge. Intricate desires to any human I have
met in my life.

Ten years down the road we might all be racing each other in virtual
race cars on a real track. Please note I am by no means claiming that
this is going to “advance humanity” which is a phrase that Mother
Culture just *loves* to whisper into our ears, identifying “us”, like
“our culture”, with “humanity” in a single breath (my Ishmael-reading
fellows will instantly recognize the phrase), but rather I think that
technology will eventually allow us to lead a “more human” life when
it comes to the forming of virtual tribes as I have just described. We
might also be meeting in virtual pubs, having virtual beers and giving
each other virtual hugs when we’re down, and virtual claps on the
shoulders for a good race result during the last league event.

While all of this will be virtual for some time to come, it’s still
going to be real humans interacting, humans with an inherent need to
“form a tribe” and share experiences, joy and pain. With the
Screamers, I think we’re lucky to witness just such a thing in its
humble beginnings. We are sharing it already, and I don’t believe this
is going to vanish anytime soon.

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