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Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter-Culture

Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter-Culture



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Published by Pixelate
By Lars Konzack
By Lars Konzack

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Published by: Pixelate on Sep 04, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Geek Culture
The 3
 The aim of this paper is to examine what geekculture is and how it influences game culture.
Culture, Games, Geeks, Generations,Information Society
ACM Classification Keywords
K.4.m Miscellaneous
What is a geek? What is a nerd? Thesequestions have popped up occasionally withinthe new game cultures from classic role-playing games and LARP communities totrading card games and videogamecommunities. There is a sudden need for adefinition. We want to know what thesepeople are – and in this context, we will goeven further to find out what kind of culturethey represent.Wikipedia defines geek in this way: “A geek(pronunciation /gi:k/ ) is a person who isfascinated, perhaps obsessively, by obscure orvery specific areas of knowledge andimagination. Geek may not always have thesame meaning as the term nerd.” [1]This leads us to the Wikipedia definition of nerd: “Nerd, as a stereotypical or archetypaldesignation, refers to somebody who is
© Lars Konzack 2006.Presented at FNG2006, June 26–28, 2006, Preston, England..
Lars Konzack
Aalborg UniversityNiels Jernes Vej 14Aalborg Ø, DK-9220 Denmarkkonzack@vrmedialab.dk
perceived to be of above-average intelligenceand whose interests are not shared bymainstream society. Most people's interestsare in the subjects of sports, music, fashion,food, etc., but nerds typically have intereststhat are more encyclopaedic.” [1]Wikiepdia goes further to find out thedifference between geek and nerd: “The word"nerd" refers to a person of "above-averageintelligence" whose interests (often in scienceand mathematics) are not shared bymainstream society. By contrast, a "geek" isessentially a person who is fascinated,perhaps obsessively, by obscure or veryspecific areas of knowledge and imagination.” And continues: ”Thus a "nerd" is primarilymarked as having a high intelligence and isnot necessarily more fascinated with onesubject any more so than another. A "geek",however, is obsessively fascinated withparticular subjects, but is not necessarilyattributed with an above average intelligence.Thus a "geek" has the compulsion and drive tolearn vast quantities of knowledge about aparticular field such as computers, or
Star Trek 
trivia, without high intelligence beingassumed. More than likely, the main confusionbetween the terms comes from their commonassociation with specific areas of knowledgethat seems to require a high level intelligence(for example, mathematics and science). Thusa "geek" who was obsessed by the pursuit of mathematical or scientific knowledge, mightalso be classified as a "nerd" as societyconsiders such pursuits to be intellectual innature and as requiring high intelligence.” [1]The difference between geek and nerd is asyou might already have noticed not thatinteresting – unless of course you are a partof these ongoing murky debates about geeksvs. nerds. As for this paper there will be noreal distinction between the two terms. Forthat reason geek culture and nerd culture willbe seen as the one and the same culturalmovement.What is interesting to us is the fact that thesedefinitions touch the geek culture withoutreally defining it. But from what is being said,we may determine that it’s an intellectualcultural movement. It has something to dowith
Star Trek 
but certainly not anything to dowith sports, music, fashion, and food. It isreferred to as obscure and not beingmainstream.Brad King and John Borland notice that acentral part of geek culture is role-playinggames and
The Lord of the Rings
by Tolkien[2]. One might have argued earlier that
Star Trek 
and The
Lord of the Rings
were obscurebut nowadays they seem to representmainstream. What is going on? Whathappened?
Generations of the InformationSociety
To answer these questions we must get abroader understanding of the geek culture andwhat kind of society that created suchindividuals. It has often been said that we livein an information society. What does thatmean exactly? For the purpose of this article,the information society simply means asociety in which people are engaged in activitywith information and service, contrary tothose who are engaged with industry andagriculture [3]. Then if we add the fact thatpeople’s identity emanates from what they dofor a living or at least a central part of theiridentity, we end up understanding the impactsuch a society has on it’s citizens.
After World War II, during the Cold War of the1960 and ‘70s, the western world waschanging. The major part of it’s citizens wereno longer workers in the industry, butemployed with different kinds of informationand services ranging from journalists andlibrarians to teachers and administrators. Thischanged the mentality of the people like thechange of society from hunter/gatherer toagriculture, and later from agriculture toindustry [3]. The majority was no longerindustrial workers, and consequently, theirvalues became marginalised and to somedegree romanticised, like when young peopleof that time were dreaming of a socialistrevolution. The new generation, the hippiegeneration (a.k.a. boomers, provos or youthrebels) insisted on its own values, a culturalcommotion which nowadays is known as thecounter-culture. Cultural products, culturalprocesses, and cultural identity weretransformed.The aesthetic content of the counter-culturewas a continuum between High Modernismand Postmodernism. At one end theyborrowed a lot of early 20th centuryaesthetics such as Avant-Garde music, theBauhaus movement, and abstract paintings,and at the other end they createdunderground comics, rock music, and newwave science fiction. The latter was muchmore exciting and innovative, but wasnonetheless regarded as low culture, while theartsy experiments, repeating the ModernistArt movement was considered as high culture[4] [5].This leads us towards the second counter-culture: The yuppies. They no longer reallycared for Modernist art, and even though theycould see some values in comics and rockmusic, they did not quite know how toappreciate it. Living in a world in which HighModernist art was considered as the real artby the older generation, they tried to renewthe perspective saying, it’s only the outside(the image) of culture that mattered. In thatrespect, comics and Avant-Garde paintingscould mix. Everything was a mix betweendifferent kinds of cultures and different kindsof aesthetics. Furthermore, commercialismwas their approach to culture. Culture andaesthetics were seen by the yuppies as event-based sellable products. They still do, eventhough they are twenty years older. Thetypical cultural artefact of the yuppie-generation is of course the music video, whichat the same time is a commercial, a lowculture product, and a high culture sublimeartefact [6] [7].Born in 1960s and 1970s the yuppies werethe offspring generation of the informationsociety. They’d studied for so long, and whenthey matured, they suddenly foundthemselves in a world of media and offices,having jobs such as admen, designers,brokers, managers, and spin-doctors. This istheir world, and this is the perspective fromwhich they perceive the rest of the world. Thismeans that there is a reason to how theyperceive culture and aesthetics. Everything intheir world is measured by how much moneyit’s worth. If a painting is sold for one milliondollars, it’s worth one million dollars. If adesign is sold for $9.95, then it’s worth thatprice. In order to show what kind of characteryou are, you must surround yourself withexpensive stuff. Who cares if anybody likes itor not, it makes no sense any way. Nothingmakes sense anyway; or rather the world iswhat you make of it – nothing more, nothingless, only wealth and status matters.The yuppie generation was the last to

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