Geek rant

Link: BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight | Newsnight’s ‘Geek Week’.

I’ve really enjoyed the Newsnight ‘Geek Week’ and especially the package on MMOGs.   However, it annoys me how gamers [and anyone interested in anything that uses technology] are referred to as geeks.  And not just by Newsnight, by my colleagues at work and friends – by people who should know better.   

So instead of trying to work I got to thinking what it means to be a geek?  The myriad of definitions don’t help a lot.  e.g.:

  • A geek is a person who is fascinated, perhaps
    obsessively, by technology and imagination. Geek may not always have
    the same meaning as the term nerd (see nerd for a discussion of the
    disputed relation between the terms). wikipedia
  • A carnival performer who does disgusting act OR eccentric: a person with an unusual or odd personality

my favourite:

  • The sort of person who would get really excited at the
    prospect of using a text editor on a 900 megahertz workstation to write
    out the definitions of technical terms.

Despite not having a consistent ‘definition’ the term has a great deal of currency. Are people who buy Plasma screens Geeks?  Why not?  If people playing Second Life are then where does it stop, at the type of technology or the passion for the product?  Does it help in defining an increasingly large cohort by psychographics’ or attitude or is it just a demeaning [for most of the definitions are demeaning] term for non-users to normalise their own existence – the ‘Other’, the ‘geek’?  When a 53 year old woman from a town in the north of England becomes a ‘geek’ are we not dismissing so much of the richness of well, her:


After watching your video about Second Life, I have to say I AM
HOOKED, and have been for some time now! I’ve been involved in 3D VR
chat programmes for around seven years now as a user and now couldn’t
live without them! When SL hit the PCs I popped in just to take a look
round and WOW, I was instantly hooked. You can be whatever and whoever
you want to be – I’ve met and talked to some wonderful people. In March
2004, I flew to New York and married the man of my dreams after we met
in Active and I’ve never been happier. By the way, I’m 53.
Keep up the good work Newsnight!
Viv Garbacki, Burnley

So geeks are somehow ‘abnormal’, they display charcateristics different from the ‘population’ that is they play games. But when these ‘abnormal’ types turn out to be very ‘normal’ people where doe this leave us?  Viv may be an anomaly but there are lots and lots of anomalies; there are lots of Viv’s.