WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tribes of Wellington


8 tribes book coverIf you've been reading the paper this weekend (or reading Unlimited last year), you'll have come across the buzz surrounding the book 8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of New Zealand. While it's hardly the first attempt by marketers to conjure up demographic or psychographic clusters among New Zealanders (and I've dabbled in it myself), it's certainly a good conversation-starter and there may be something in it.

While I haven't read the book, I have plenty of reservations about what I can gather from the articles and the web site. First, the word "tribe" seems inappropriate, since it conjures up images of tightly defined and feuding clans: "tendency" might be more accurate. Attempts to promote it as a "new class system" seem way off the mark, given that it's not a hierarchy. The online "Find your tribe" quiz seems hardly more substantial than those cheesy blogthings.com memes, and the descriptions of the eight tribes seemed to leave out substantial chunks of New Zealand (especially those whose main allegiance is to tribes that existed long before PR consultants).

But it's definitely fun, and it's refreshing to see acknowledgement that there are New Zealanders who don't belong to the Balclutha or Papatoetoe tribes (maaate!). And the quiz results suprised me a little. I would dearly love to consider myself a Cuba Street person, but my lack of piercings and my straight-laced career point more towards the PC intellectuals of Grey Lynn. As it was, the results flattered me by edging out the Grey Lynn earnestness with some perhaps unearned Cuba St funk:

My 8 Tribes profilePerhaps that's not such a surprise, since the "tribes" concept is more about attitudes and aspirations than one's real lifestyle and actions.

While I'll continue to argue with the tribe definitions, there's a lot that rings true and might help crystallise discussion of demographics and attitudes. For instance, my aversion to Tauranga could be linked to the fact that it's gone from Balclutha and Papatoetoe to North Shore in a single generation, and while there may be a few bemused Raglan types hanging around the edges, there's no sign of it developing any Grey Lynn or Cuba St touches in the forseeable future.

I suspect that most WellUrban readers would fall into the Grey Lynn or Cuba St tribes, with perhaps a touch of North Shore (after all, I do write about shopping occasionally), but that's a hypothesis worth testing. So, fill in the online form and send the results to: tom [dot] beard [at] paradise [dot] net [dot] nz. Attach the graph image, since links to the result pages seem to be unreliable, and add some sort of description of where you live (suburb at least, and preferably street). With any luck, I'll get enough responses to map the results and show you where the "tribes" of Wellington actually live. Update: the results are here.

10 Comments:

At 9:57 AM, January 15, 2007, Blogger stephen said...

Are expatriate and wannabe Wellington readers allowed to participate?

 
At 10:01 AM, January 15, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Absolutely! If you're an ex-pat, let me know which part of the city you used to live in, and for wannabes, the place you'd like to live.

 
At 2:24 PM, January 15, 2007, Blogger Jo Hubris said...

Was anyone actually surprised by their results? I mean each statement's pretty clear about which group it'll fall into.

 
At 9:38 AM, January 16, 2007, Blogger noizy said...

I was surprised. I was thinking I'd be a Grey Lynner, but ended up mostly Ragalan. Who'd've thunk?

 
At 10:51 AM, January 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same - i thought I would be a Grey Lynner too, but ended up belonging to the Cuba Street Tribe (despite lack of tattoos and piercings)...

 
At 12:31 PM, January 16, 2007, Blogger noizy said...

Raglan, that is...

 
At 2:55 PM, January 17, 2007, Blogger stephen said...

And on further thinking: is it just me, or is there more than a little racism in their "tribal" descriptions?

I'd be interested to know what statistical work if any underpins these groupings, but I'm not prepared to spring for the book to find out.

(Raglan followed by Grey Lynn, for the record. Clearly while all Cuba St'ers are tatooed and pierced, not all who are tatooed and pierced are Cuba St'ers.)

 
At 5:00 PM, January 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got Grey Lynn and Cuba St visually the same, but the results said Grey Lynn (I guess by a sub-pixel amount, or else they just gave me the one that came first). And then Raglan at half the height. I live in Churton Park, if you want to put it on the graph.

I wasn't very impressed by the quiz, to be honest. It's basically a "pick which group you want to be" thing. And they seem poorly founded to begin with. I'm going to see if the library has a copy so I can examine what they're actually basing it on, but it seems like a pricey version of "Which Backstreet Boy Is Your Perfect Match?" with a veneer of class.

 
At 9:23 PM, January 24, 2007, Blogger Matthew said...

I got Grey Lynn first, Raglan second. Neither profile resonates very much at all. Maybe the tribes rubric has some merit but the quiz is basically worthless. I may be an outlier – there isn't any obvious place for a white churchgeek. I live in Newtown.

 
At 9:28 AM, January 25, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, the quiz needs to be at least two or three times the length in order to have any real usefulness, even if you think the tribes themselves have merit. I shouldn't criticise the concept too much without having read the book, but I still think they're falling between two potentially useful ways of doing such an analysis: it seems to be neither a fully thought-out qualitative sociological study, nor a rigorous piece of quantitative psychographic research based on principal components analysis, Ward clustering or the like.

I do believe that there are different "subcultures" within NZ, and that it's a useful antidote to the old monolithic "kiwi joker" myth, but it's hard to see any real theoretical or empirical validity behind their particular choice of tribes.

 

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