Tribalism in Transmedia

One of the things I love best about working in transmedia is the community of fellow creators and like minds. There has never been a warmer, more vibrant, supportive, enthusiastic group of people. But as much as I love my community, I'm seeing a dangerous sentiment afoot these days. 

That sentiment is hostility toward outsiders, carpetbaggers, newcomers. We are a tight-knit tribe, and we police our territorial borders with jealousy. We have become victims of our own success, we lament. It's the dawning of the age of the transmedia douchebag, we say. We attack the legitimacy of opinions from anyone not sufficiently established as a member of our community. We review newcomers' presentations, papers, projects, rolling our eyes and denouncing their credibility in order to more firmly establish that unlike the victims of our bile, we are insiders.

We have got to cut that out, and fast.

I can't cast stones; I've been as guilty as anyone else. It can be hard, really hard, to know that you've put two or five or ten years into paying your dues and building your craft, and you're seeing work, acclaim, and speaking slots go to those who aren't as "deserving." Outsiders.

It's true: There are going to be people in our field who are self-aggrandizing, who take credit but don't give it, who puff up their accomplishments (if any) and who win projects over others with more experience and insider credibility. Sure, kid, it's not fair. But who ever told you it was going to be fair?

 The solution isn't solace through embitterment. We risk losing the generosity of spirit that makes our community worth belonging to in the first place. We risk becoming jealous even of each other, we risk rejecting innovation because of its source, we risk not fostering talent that can help us all to get better at what we do. We risk everything that matters.

This is a problem that will naturally work itself out. Some of you will remember the heady days of the mid-'90s, when anybody who could edit a little HTML could pull down a chunky salary as a web designer. Since this wasn't a difficult skill at the time, soon there was a glut of web designers on the market. Some of them were talented, dedicated professionals. Some of them were crafty careerists who knew what to say to get a job. 

But as the art and science of web design matured, it became easier to tell who really knew what they were doing, and who didn't. The solution didn't involve vocabulary changes or eye-rolling that you couldn't be a real web designer if you'd only hung out your shingle in '99 instead of '95. All it took was time.

All we need is time. Newcomers will be coming, as we mature as an industry. This is not the sign of the end; this is the sign that we've made a good beginning. Now we need to pay it forward, share what we've learned, and see what fresh eyes and minds clear of preconceived notions can show us.

We're at a crossroads. As our community grows past the point where everybody can feasibly know everyone else, at least by reputation and on Twitter, we can choose to become increasingly hostile to outsiders to protect our own credibility. Or we can choose to embrace newcomers, regardless of background or credential, in order to benefit the craft itself.

I choose to give everyone a chance. What about you?

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