"Pacific Standard Time (PST) aka Pacific Time Zone runs down the Pacific Coast of Canada and the United States of America. It is sometimes referred to as Pacific Coast Time or West Coast Time. It includes the cities of Seattle WA, San Francisco CA, Los Angeles CA, San Diego CA & Las Vegas NV" (source)
Starting this month (September 2009) Italian film & media magazine Duellanti magazine features a new monthly column of mine, "Pacific Standard Time". It's a geekier version of Candace Bushnell's Sex & the City with a few twists and trysts. For once, it's set in San Francisco and not in New York. Second: it's written from a male perspective. Last but not least, I have not received any proposal for a TV series/movie deal. Yet. I need a new agent. Actually, I need an agent.
I begin by ranting and raving about Ethan Watters' seminal book Urban Tribes: Are Friends the new family? aka Urban Tribes: A generation defines friendship, family and commitment. I think it's important to re-read Watters' book in lieu of what happened after the emergence of the internet and social networks.
Although the technological landscapes has dramatically changed in the last few years - Urban Tribes was published in 2003 (but the main thesis was illustrated in a 2001 article published in the New York Times magazine) - some ideas related to the notion of neotribalism are fresh, alive and kickin'. Urban Tribes is not an academic treatise on neotribalism - it is not, in other words, an American commentary to Michel Maffesoli's The Time of the Tribes" (1988, 1991). Nonetheless, it offers interesting penetrating insights on how people interact in first world cities. Moreover, Watters' definition of an urban tribe differs significantly from Maffesoli's.
Compare and contrast:
In Michel Maffesoli's book (1988), urban tribes are micro groups of people who share common interests in metropolitan areas. The members of these relatively small groups tend to have similar worldviews, dress styles and behavioral patterns. Their social interactions are largely informal and emotionally-laden, different than late capitalism's corporate-bourgeoisie cultures, based on dispassionate logic. Maffesoli claims that punks are a typical example of an "urban tribe" (although one might be tempted to link Maffesoli to Dick Hebdige's notion of "subculture", but the two concepts are not equivalent).
In Ethan Watters' work (2001, 2003) "urban tribes are groups of never-marrieds between the ages of 25 and 45 who gather in common-interest groups and enjoy an urban lifestyle, which offers an alternative to traditional family structures".
Although Watters' analysis focuses on social dynamics in peculiar, creative, dynamic cities like San Francisco (thus, it can be hardly applied to much more conservative and homogeneous places like Milan, for instance), Urban Tribes is still extremely useful to understand how societies evolve.
Today, Ethan Watters teaches Design at the California College of the Arts.
Read Pacific Standard Time #1 (in Italian) (click on the thumbnail):
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PS. Urban Tribes was translated into Italian by Mondadori in 2004.