5 Relevant Literature

A number of Books and articles have been written concerning online communities and their significance to individuals and larger real-life communities. This page will focus on some of the most relevant literature as it relates to the online tricking community. After reviewing much of this literature, it is clear that the online tricking community is in fact a meaningful community, and that the power of this online community is what allowed it to drive the sport forward in the way that it did.

Personal Connections In the Digital Age (Baym):

In his chapter on online communities, Baym investigates what makes a community a community, and compares online communities with real-life ones. He posits that different tech platforms can lead to different types of group formation (74). Thus, we must not pretend that all online communities are all same. He goes on to explain five central concepts to an online community (or any community): Space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships.

–Space: share sense of space arguably exist online (forums, comment threads, video uploading sites, etc.)

–Practice: shared practices such as vocabulary, acronyms, and routinized behaviors. Some communities (like tricking) are formed around certain shared hobbies or interests as well.

–Resources and support:. Online, people can give advice, defend someone elses argument, or even go as far as offering what Baym calls “tangible aid” (real life support- money, a place to stay, etc) (85)

 –Shared identities: People assume certain rolls within the community, and the entire group often ends up distinguishing itself from other groups. Example: people on the popular site ‘reddit’ call themselves redditors” and regularly use this term to distinguish themselves from others. (Example not from Baym)

–Interpersonal relationships: In most online contexts, it is difficult to witness interpersonal relationships between members of an online community unless they are explicitly mentioned in public material. However, there are often public posts thanking people or drawing attention to people’s interpersonal relationships online. Interpersonal relationships that start in online communities can often result in real-life interactions as well.

All of Baym’s 5 points relate directly to the tricking community, thus supporting the idea that the online tricking community is in fact a legitimate and meaningful community.

The internet: An ethnographic approach (Miller & Slater)

Miller and Slater frame a broader discussion of online interactions in an ethnographic investigation into what it means to be “Trini” (a person from Trinidad). They open their book with the argument “that ‘being Trini’ is integral to understanding what the internet is in this particular place; and that using the internet is becoming integral to ‘being Trini.” (1).

This is a particularly useful source in connecting the online community to the real world. The tricking community has a similar dynamic as “being Trini,” in that it is very difficult (if not impossible) to consider yourself a tricker without somehow participating in the online community.


Imagined Communities (Anderson)

Unlike many of my other sources, Imagined Communities is not directly related to online relationships or technology.  Throughout this book, Anderson strives to understand the idea of nationalism. He does this by making an effort to understand what exactly makes us identify with our nationalities in the way that we do. His discussion of what drives people to nationalism is relevant to the tricking community because he addresses what makes us identify with larger groups. Much like a sense of nationalism, trickers identify as trickers– not as anything else, and the online community plays a large role in encouraging that identification.


Musical Community on The Internet: An On-Line Ethnography (Lysloff)

This article is particularly relevant because of its anthropological approach to an investigation of a community similar to that of tricking. Lysloff discusses the dynamics of online musical communities in which people openly share and discuss their electronic music. Lysloff includes an intelligent discussion of what differentiates this community from others, and addresses much of the literature I am consulting on this topic.

Lysloff concludes that the online musical community is a prime example of the fact that communities can truly exist online. She suggests that internet spaces like message boards and forums provide far more that just an opportunity for people to communicate quickly and share files. I think that any tricker would easily agree with this point of view.

Progressive Politics, Electronic individualism, and The Myth of Virtual Community (Lockard) (featured in the book “internet Culture”, edited by David Porter)

Unlike most of my other sources, Lockard’s essay on virtual communities argues against the validity of online communities as a concept. He believes that calling online groups communities is a misuse of the term, and that no meaningful or lasting relationships can be formed online.

I believe that much of his argument is undermined by the difference between the Internet in the nineties (when this was written) and the Internet now. However, he makes several points that are still worth mentioning and refuting. He centers his argument on the issues of access and lack of real personal interaction online. I would argue that the online tricking community circumvents these problems because of some of its unique characteristics:

1st The tricking community has very low levels of anonymity (everybody actually knows each other).

2nd Trickers are highly encouraged to physically meet up and trick together, which brings the online community into close contact with the real-life community.

3rd the non-competitive nature of the sport fosters a very welcoming community that encourages people to help each other and give support whenever necessary.


Much of the literature pertaining to online communities, agrees perfectly with my understanding of how tricking came to be what it is today. Although different authors take different approaches to the concept of online communities, most all of them reach similar conclusions. The one dissenting voice that stands out is that of Lockard, but I believe that the unique nature of the tricking community (as well as the outdated nature of his research) undermines his dissenting points.

From my personal perspective as a tricker, I have seen how much the online community has affected the sport. However, I was still quite relieved to find that the majority of scholarly research on the topic agrees directly with my personal opinions/observations about online communities.

Works cited

Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1991. Print.

Baym, Nancy K. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. Print.

Lysloff, René. Musical community on the Internet: An online Ethnography.” Cultural Anthropology 18(2) 2003: 233-263. Print.

Miller, Daniel, and Don Slater. The Internet an Ethnographic Approach. Oxford: Berg, 2000 Print.

Porter, David. Internet Culture. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.


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