Saturday, September 20, 2014

We may all be geeks now, but fewer of us are nerds

We're all Nerds Now, claims an article in last week's New York Times Weekend Edition. Inspired by the "geek totem — the gadget wristwatch," author Noam Cohen writes that "Never before has the boundary between geek culture and mainstream culture been so porous," and that

From gadgets to social networks to video games, the decision not to embrace the newest technology is a choice to be out of the mainstream.
Buttressing Cohen's arguments are two expert witnesses. One is Wil Wheaton, once known as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek, The Next Generation and now the author of the memoir "Just a Geek." The other is Thomas Dolby, once known for the hit song “She Blinded Me With Science,” and now an arts professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Says Wheaton: “Tech has become so ubiquitous and seamless in our lives, and because tech and personal tech and wearable tech are such a part of our daily existence, we want to know more about them.
 
Says Dolby: “If you are not a geek, you are Luddite, and that is not cool,”
 
Okay... But since when did being a geek equal being a nerd? And since when does the rise of geekdom support the rise of nerddom?
 
As the article itself points out:
An engineering degree is also no longer a requisite to using technology, as seemingly anyone today can install a printer or upload a video. Similarly, another signifier of nerd status — knowing obscure facts about favorite subjects — has also lost its currency. The total number of “Simpsons” characters or the name of a constellation is only a Wikipedia entry away.
Plenty of nerds aren't geeks. What defines a nerd isn't technology, but mastery of things like engineering and huge bodies of facts. And, yes, each of these accomplishments have been losing currency--for years.
 
Most of us may be geeks now. But, in part for that very reason, fewer of us are nerds.

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