Friday, March 27, 2009

What is a geek?

We had a book at work several months ago that was a group of tests to determine your geek-ness. I can't find the exact title or anything that really resembles it on Amazon but the book was clearly not for or even about geeks. It was a bunch of cliches that focused on Star Trek/Wars, computers and supposed social awkwardness of geeks. It's easy to believe the author(s) had never even met a RL geek.

I got hooked on The Big Bang Theory about the same time. For some reason I had watched a couple of episodes and thought here were TV people who actually know geeks but after having now seen all the episodes I realize these are still mostly Hollywood cliche geeks and don't know where I got that original impression. However, somebody on the staff clearly understands the geek or at least observes some of them - the Doppler shift Halloween costume is great and the response to Penny's question about why they're building a computer application to turn off lights halfway around the world ("because we can") very nearly sums up an important aspect of geek thought.

The Onion's AV Club recently added a featured called Gateways to Geekery that's a bit of an odd mix. When did power pop and French New Wave become geek loci? Or Universal horror films? Certainly there are different types of geeks but these topics don't seem quite overlapping enough. But otherwise the AV Club does understand that it's not the actual details that makes a geek but rather ways of thinking. These topics all, or mostly, share a status of being outside mainstream US pop culture but also having a fairly substantial body of information to master. The actual topics do matter to some extent - after all having geek-level intimacy with the intricacies of chess, embroidery and Provencal poetry still won't make you a geek. But if that chess embroidering poet can install their own hard drive while telling you what the different colors of Kryptonite do then you might have an actual geek.