User Input

User Input: Culture Clash 1

I won’t rehash the entire article by Patton Oswalt, so go read it here.  It is stated that Geek Culture is dead.  The old Geek Culture was based on encyclopedic knowledge of a specific knowledge base.  In the 80’s and 90’s, if my friends had a Star Wars or music question, they came to me.  If I wanted to know computers, how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop (spoiler alert: it’s three) or Star Trek I went to TechieInHell.  If I wanted to know a lot of wild conspiracy theories peppered with incorrect facts, I went to Deartháir.  Now, if you need to know something, you type it into Google and… there you go.  I don’t have the knowledge of Wookieepedia, and anybody can access it, therefore everybody has more accessible knowledge of Star Wars than is in my head.  My geek seems to be gone.

Is geek culture dead?

Image borrowed from Wired.com

[“User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • Real geeks are very few and far between these days. I never was a geek, but I did know quite a few. Then everyone got easy access to any kind of knowledge they could want, and poof, those geeks became pretty irrelevant. They fled to their mom's basement and played WoW, and everyone lived happily ever after.

  • Deartháir

    MY FACTS WERE NOT INCORRECT! The government really was watching me and wanted to steal a sample of my brain for genetic testing!

    • tonyola

      Sounds like they already got a sample of your brain – a very large sample….

  • MrHowser

    Geek culture is not dead. For every enthusiast well-informed person on a given subject, there are several who haven't a clue about it. Mostly, they don't have the time or inclination. My wife couldn't tell you the difference between carburetion and fuel injection, the name of more than… I'll say two British rock bands, or the protagonist of any video game outside the Mario universe. She could, however, pick Boba Fett from a bounty hunter lineup and explain to me why I need a thyroid.

    There is still room for the seriously obsessed to be different from the rest of us. I can tell you why Kashyyyk is significant to the Star Wars universe, but I just ignore most of the non-movie stuff for the sake of my own productivity. I understand the idea of a limited slip differential, but you can believe I'd have someone else fix it if it broke. The Beatles "1" album is the only one I own, and I'm not looking to buy any others. Sure, a lot of my knowledge is superficial, but there is so much to know in the world that superficial is about as deep as most of us can afford to go.

    The information is all out there to be had, but many folks don't know how to look. I've cured two computers of malware using nothing but guides I found on the internet and programs available for free. I'm not some super computer genius, but Google is my friend. My friends and relatives (especially older ones) can't seem to comprehend that they could do this kind of thing themselves, and would rather pay someone else to fix it for them. They're busy doing other things, being expert in other areas.

  • zsm

    I don't get it. For me I never did have more than one friend at a time as a kid. If I was interested in something, I spent a lot of time learning and thinking about it myself. One of my sons is a lot like I was. He spends a lot of time reading. The library is great, as it was for me. But the internet is fantastic too now. Recently it was the Titanic, now it may have moved on to Volcanoes. I don't really know, since he does it for himself and does not talk much about it unless I prod or find clues, like he's making a model volcano now.

    There were other kids that had a circle of friends, quite large. They were charismatic and knowledgeable, but it seemed to me they learned not really for themselves but to impress others. Not all of them were like that, but in my schools the ones that were the centers of that clique certainly were. I can see kids like that might have a problem these days. But the introvert sort of nerd or geek has it way better than ever before with the internet now. Just they need to leave time to experiment and think for themselves about things. Again for the introverts, that's not a problem at all. There's no problem for geeks and nerds in the future, it seems brighter for them. I really tried to see the point of that article, I did not see it at all, and at times completely opposite of what Mr. Oswalt thought.

    • tonyola

      On the other hand, the rise of the internet means that geeks and nerds have less incentive to actually go out and have face-to-face contact with other human beings. Learning social skills and the intricacies of getting along with other people still counts for something.

      • zsm

        That's true. For me paper and pencil RPG and video games helped a lot with that. I see those fading, not so many people game anymore it seems and so many video games are online. There was no better way to play an adventure game than with a buddy thinking what if we use this on that. For me it took until I was 20 or so to basically mature. It just took a while, don't know why really. But on the other hand I think sites like this can help people learn communicate, people who might be thought of as shy face to face. There are lots of places online now where people with shared interests can just gab about them. Places like here, hooniverse, BaT promote being civil, insightful, and funny online. There must be places like that for almost every interest. Again I just don't really see any doom and gloom myself.

        • tonyola

          Dwelling behind an avatar and online name is one thing. Being face to face with another human with the emotional risks involved and no mask to hide behind is something else altogether. I'm not talking about just playing games, I'm talking about dealing with the world at large – the good and the bad. The Internet has become a crutch for those who fear going out of their door or revealing too much of themselves. It's like all those old scifi stories about wired-up box people who live their lives vicariously, except that it's really happening. Just wait until USB or Bluetooth "personal gratification" devices synced to porn become widely available.

          • zsm

            You're right of course, for me the gaming was a step in growing-up and breaking out of the shell. I think places like here can help others too. If I was 20 and secret ninja santa happened then, it would have been a very good thing for me. BTW thanks, I've enjoyed picking-up just a small part of what you know about cars especially over the years.

  • Speaking of Patton Oswalt, has anyone picked up or e-read his new book? I am thinking about getting it, but $10.99 for the e-reader version seems steep.

    <img src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51VUeGKmFYL.jpg"&gt;

  • I disagree that Geek Culture itself is dead. Geeks sought out extensive knowledge on subjects that interested them, but held very little interest for a majority of people. I have a good friend that knows everything there is to know about the Titanic, down to how many planks were used on the poop deck. That drive, that desire for encyclopedic knowledge is what Geek Culture is about.

    Sure, anybody can go to Wookiepedia and find out about Alderaan, but do they want to? I think that is what defines a geek. In the 21st century it's not the accumulation of knowledge in and of itself, but the desire to accumulate that knowledge. Everyone else only cares about pop culture, sports, or any of that other, meaningless drivel.

    • When I was in high school, I devoured every source of motorcycle stats I could get my hands on, usually to the detriment of my homework. Later on, in college, I worked behind a motorcycle parts counter and became the resident bike history geek. The other parts guys were really just there to make their crappy minimum-wage+50¢ hourly wage while they gained enough money/cred/experience to go on to be a racing star/mechanic/rock musician/bidnitman.

      Every time some old codger came in and started with "I got this old 125 trail bike from about '67…" they'd just stop him there and call me over to deal with the guy, then walk away. It was cool to be the go-to guy.

  • skitter

    The internet appears to reduce the exclusiveness of geek culture. The Google erodes the geeks' monopoly on trivia, giving everyone an air of I could find out, if I wanted to. The democratic nature of the internet reduces the loneliness of geek culture. At a glance, one website carries as much authority as another. One or many perfectly attuned worlds can be found or created.

    But geek culture needs more than endlessly repeated press releases and Wikipedia articles. In the better forums, it has moved on from amassing data, and the members struggle to figure out problems or create new ones. As popular culture consumes and regurgitates their past discoveries, geek culture moves deeper or further ahead.

    Technology makes it easy for many to create. But the boxed tools may be restrictive, and while more good work may be created, more poor work will accompany it. Here the geeks lag behind as well as leading, sifting through mediocrity in search of the occasional masterpiece.

  • P161911

    There seems to be more celebration instead of scorn of the geek in society in general today. Maybe it is just the fact that I am older.

    I went to an engineering school about 15 years ago. Sure most of us were geeks of one sort or another, but in general we TRIED to be somewhat normal and not the complete nerds that we were. Now it seems that the geek/nerd is celebrated with students trying to out geek one another.

    Maybe this is just 15-20 years of hindsight.

  • Deartháir

    Holy crap, good conversation. Good hustle, everyone, good game.

    The Barenaked Ladies — who, like their music or not, are awesome guys, and good ambassadors of the essence of Canadiana — did an iTunes Originals album a couple of years back wherein they discussed where Steve and Ed, the two front-men, first met. It was at a school for the gifted, and they talked about the amusing social dynamics to be found there. There were still the "cool" kids, the "athletic" kids, the "smart" kids, and the "nerdy" kids. Cool kids? Would not be cool anywhere else. Athletic kids? Not really all that athletic, just more athletic than the rest. Smart kids would be smart elsewhere. Nerdy kids, always nerdy.

    I think that's a bit of what's happened to geek culture. The geekiness of society in general has risen to the point where the semi-geeky are not really geeks anymore. People like CardboardTube — and myself, to an extent — who embraced the interpersonal aspects of society, no longer seem as geeky, even though when taken in isolation, are still geeks. The humour of a phrase like "these are not the droids you're looking for", in the right context, is now recognized by most, rather than resulting in the eye-roll it would have years ago.

    Geek culture is not dead. In fact, it's the opposite. It is so vastly alive and thriving that it has overpowered the background noise and made itself invisible.

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