Reading Wil Wheaton’s latest post, Regarding the Difference Between Embracing and Exploiting Geek Culture, my attention was brought to a “campaign” called the Society for Geek Advancement.
Here’s the video they made, which also features Wil (he’s the one talking about “I speak Python and CSS, not Klingon”):
I don’t exactly know why, but the first time I viewed it, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t sure why, but I guess it must have been the heavy featuring of “social media” and Apple products.
Come on, I feel like half of the video is about Twitter.
Reading Wil’s post, I pinpointed what it is that left me with such a feeling:
…this was supposed to be about refuting stereotypes and celebrating the things we love, but it ends up feeling like we’re trying to convince the Cool Kids that we’re really just like them, and a promotional opportunity for celebrities who don’t know a damn thing about our geek culture, and don’t care about the people who create and live in it.
It reeks of trying too hard: “I don’t drink Mountain Dew”, “I don’t hang out in my parents’ basement”…and coming from hipsters, it seems less sincere than what it’s meant to be. Marina Orlova, I love you to bits, and I think you’re on of the hottest geek ever, but I think you must have offended scores of geeks by talking trash about D&D.
I was under the impression that this video would feature actual geeks who are important to our culture, like Woz, Felicia Day, Leo Laporte, and Jonathan Coulton. Instead, I saw a lot of entrepreneurs who have good marketing instincts, joined by a bunch of celebrities who are attempting to co-opt our culture because it’s what their publicity team is telling them to do.
On that point, I agree with him. Looking at the Contributors page, it’s a who’s who list of social media mavens (Kevin Rose, Pete Cashmore, Randi Zuckerberg), YouTube celebs (Marina Orlova, iJustine,Tay Zonday) and tweeting celebs (Shaq, they have since removed Ashton Kutcher and MC Hammer from the list).
@wilw I think trying to insulate "geek" is pointless. I know mathematicians who wouldn’t consider even you "geek". It’s a matter of degree.
And Wil himself wrote:
There was a great counterpoint on Twitter just now, while I was wrapping this up. Wyldfire42 said: "Seems to me that we shouldn’t be deciding who is or isn’t a geek. If we start passing judgment, we just become the bullies we hated."
I think that’s true too, there is the degree of it. The argument of who is a geek and who is not, is ultimately foolish. It’s just a stupid pride thing I guess, I’m sure anyone who relates to being a geek have felt it at least once: when you hear someone who is totally not a geek profess to be one just to seem chic.
In the end, my feelings are just about the video, rather than what’s happening in reality. These sentences by Wil sums up what I feel perfectly:
I thought I was going to be part of something that said, "Hey, I am a geek, I’m proud of that, and if you’re a geek you should be proud of it too!" What I saw was more like, "I am using new media to reach people. Yay!"
Screw the Society. I am a geek, and proud of it. If you’ re one, you should be too.