Sarah Johnson April 15, 2010 Psychology and Sociology, Block 3

Geek Subculture
There have always been strange, awkward people walking among us, but ever since the dawn of the Technology Age in the 1980¶s, geeks and geek subculture has become an indispensable and valuable fixture in industrial society. In popular culture, there are two distinct types of geeks: the chunky thirty-year-old who lives with his mother and plays Dungeons and Dragons while not working at the comic book shop, and the skinny guy wearing big glasses, a starched white shirt, and a pocket protector, who has every physics theorem in existence committed to memory and will rattle them off in under thirty seconds. Neither type is portrayed as having good social skills or good hygiene. While there¶s no denying that these stereotypes are true of a visible minority of the geek subculture, they are by no means the norm. Many, if not most, geeks are charming, articulate, well-groomed, and, since the IT explosion, financially successful individuals. In many cases, it would be difficult to identify these people as geeks without getting to know them. Despite the integration of the 1. Randall Munroe: creator of legendary geek
webcomic XKCD and living proof that geeks can be attractive and successful.

geek subculture into mainstream society, the element of subculture in the geek community is present. It

manifests itself in language, values, and behaviors.

There are others but these are two easy examples. Other grammatical oddities further complicate the language. references and quotations. There are several features of geek language that make it difficult to understand: vocabulary. comprehension becomes almost impossible. funny. the pidgin language known as l33tspeak. A sentence as simple ³I am an elite hacker´ becomes ³1 4m /\n 1337 h4x0r. and in the written form.´ Though geeks can be impossible to understand.´ which was shortened to ³leet. It derives its name from the word ³elite. Even the first level of peculiarities in geek language can present difficulties to the average observer. their social values are mostly aligned with the norms of mainstream society. When the obscure references geeks love to make are added to the mix. Being intellectuals. I cannot even hope to understand what the second poster found funny about the first post. (BBC) L33tspeak evolved from hacker culture and was later adopted by gamers. Here is a discussion of a math riddle from the XKCD forums to illustrate how perfectly grammatical conversation can be difficult to understand: Geek 1: Interestingly the sum of the reciprocal of all square numbers is finite (in fact n=11n2=6 2 ) also the sum of reciprocals of the powers of two (and hence the sum of reciprocals of powers of any integer great than two) is finite (in this case n=112n=2 ).JOHNSON 2 The language geeks use is often indicative of how deeply they are immersed in the subculture.´ at which point the E¶s were substituted for the numeral 3. they put a higher value on . Conversation between two geeks often involves highly specialized language that renders it nearly incomprehensible to the average person. Geek 2: Huh. (XKCD) For my part. The addition of l33tspeak makes geek conversation completely incomprehensible to the casual observer.

Both views are represented in the cult-classic geek show µThe Big Bang Theory. Geeks are unabashedly. but a large part of what defines geek subculture is turning everything up to eleven. Behavior within the geek subculture is as rich and complex as behavior in mainstream society. Penny.JOHNSON 3 intellectualism and look down those they feel to be ignorant. they are ruthlessly mocked by Sheldon. had this to say on the subject: ³Part of being a geek in . uninformed.¶ a show about four geek roommates. They occasionally fall into the trap of scorning those who they judge to be ignorant. Geeks have an interesting perspective on 2. A large segment of the geek population is skeptical in the extreme when it comes to the notion of romantic love.) the value of romantic love. the creator of the One-Man Star Wars Trilogy. the geekiest of the main characters. Geeks enjoy mocking what they deem to be the excesses of mainstream culture. Another segment of the geek community consists of hopeless romantics. Getting over-excited about something is called µgeeking out. Though there are many sweet moments between the two of them in the course of the show. One of the characters becomes romantically involved with their neighbor across the hall. believing the concept to be a fabrication. This enthusiasm manifests itself into some of the geekiest areas of geek culture: going to conventions. (Comic #23 of XKCD. or attention-seeking. It is these kinds of judgments²that rare lapse into pretension²that give geeks a reputation for being arrogant. or watching Star Trek for thirty-six hours without a break.¶ Charlie Ross. unreservedly and unashamedly enthusiastic about everything. attending midnight movie openings in costume.

´ (How Things Work) This aspect of geek culture has led to a new wave of mainstream acceptance of geek culture called µgeek chic. geeks present themselves as quirky. Slowly. being unabashedly in love with it. Now there is an undercurrent of pride and confidence among the geek community.JOHNSON 4 my mind is actually loving something so much. . so did geeks. Even if you love Dungeons and Dragons. More and more. and intelligent individuals rather than as socially-backward losers. It¶s cool to do what you love. passionate. The future is bright for the geeks of the world. geeks stopped apologizing for being geeky.¶ When technology got cool. in a way that it opens yourself up to ridicule.

php?f=17&t=59017 Picture of Randall Munroe: XKCD comic: .com/23/ How Things Work: Leetspeak: http://www.JOHNSON 5 WORKS CITED XKCD forums:

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