Design with neotribes

The neotribe is a sociological concept which postulates the return of tribes in a contemporary form. French sociologist Michel Maffesoli sees them as an emotional community, sometimes ephemeral, changeable in composition and which often lacks organisation and routinisation, in contrast to the original form of a tribe. This paper reflects on three interactive design projects made to test this theory, undertaken in 2017 and 2018. The projects were developed around three tribes: the People’s Fridge, the Freegans in Brixton (London) and the Tuskers on the EVE Online game. These groups are of interest because of their strong purpose and shared values. The notion of emergence is of particular interest in their development as it unites ethnographic and design approaches. This paper explores the research (divergence) and the making process (convergence). The research engages with theory and object analysis as catalysers. Finally, the process allows us to explore concepts such as DIY citizenship, the gift economy, values in an online game community and critique the notion of ‘smart’ in the Internet of Things. Hence, we hope this methodology allows more designers to contribute to a subject that goes beyond practice.