at_sign: The hero from the Quest for Glory series of computer games. (Default)
[personal profile] at_sign
I saw someone – actually multiple someones – gushing about how nerdily awesome it is that the U. S. government responded to a petition about building a Death Star. This made me think about definitions of "geek" and "nerd" used in different circles, a subject I've been considering for a while and my mother has ranted angrily at me a few times recently. I used to think I knew what it meant. Now I'm really not sure.

A Wrinkle in Time perhaps. At least I think this is true. The divide between geeks and nerds here is a little shaky; later I think nerds were worse with social stuff?

Definition two: geeks are obsessive collectors of information on unusual topics, not including sports or celebrities' lives? The area of interest is maybe less important than the extent of knowledge; if you know a great deal about a subject that most people are passingly familiar with, maybe you're a geek. Obsessiveness is key; the more "into" the topic you are the more likely you are to be considered a geek. It's not what you do, it's how you do it.

OR definition three: geeks are avid consumers of certain products or have certain specific "geeky" interests. If you game tabletop, own the right consoles, play collectible card games, own lots of superhero comics, watch anime, read science fiction, have actually read the Silmarillion, etc. you are a geek. Also people who are into certain kinds of technology, though that may still blur into definition one because usually customization is a part of that.

One interesting thing about this for me is that depending on to what degree you accept one or the other definition, some groups of people may be completely geeks or completely not geeks, and may in fact change their status over time. My mother, for instance, argues that video games are not a geeky pastime because they're mainstream, and a similar argument at this point applies to science fiction and fantasy. Look, I could quote all the good lines from Star Wars, and describe the plot, years before I saw the movies.

Another interesting thing is that the type of geek culture that emphasizes consumption – the midnight release of the new console, owning every back issue of a comic, having all Apple products – implicitly excludes people who don't have the money to blow on yet another proprietary device that will be obsolete in another year or two. (Knowledge collection is similarly biased, but not I think as extremely, because people seem more willing to waste time than money.)

I suppose what I think about the whole thing now, really, is that if the words were once used to marginalize and hurt people who are different, it seems like the reclamation effort has backfired: either they're too vague to have meaning, or they define a cool kids' club. Thoughts on this would be welcome.

Date: 2013-01-16 03:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
I totally have something to say about this, but I need to gather my own thoughts on the subject first. I just wanted to let you know that a response is in the works.... ^_^

May 2013

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