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Author Topic: Some questions for you about "geek culture".
Snaggy

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Icon 5 posted October 22, 2005 22:12      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Nitrozac and I are doing a presentation on "geek culture" in a couple weeks, and as part of our research we thought we'd ask you folks your opinions. [Big Grin]

How would you define a geek?

Has the meaning of the word geek changed for you at all? (We'd be particularily interested in hearing from Geek Elders on this one... how was the word geek perceived in previous decades.)

How would you define "geek culture".

Has popular culture become geekier? If so, how do you feel about that?

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YaYawoman

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 00:33      Profile for YaYawoman     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hello. To me a geek is someone who sees the world,both concrete and abstract parts, about 2 degrees off. The geek word has changed quite a bit. I was a book geek just as the 1st home computers were being sold. Think Radioshack's TSR-80 and basic. You know, the pong era. Back then it was NOT as easy being a geek. There were not as many geek heros and role models that the general public recognized. It wasn't like it was today. Now parents would be hopefull and proud to have a geek, a potential bill gates or Steven Hawking among many others. Back then family would roll their eyes and hope they could make me fit with the world. Now it is like a badge of honor.
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Grummash

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 02:20      Profile for Grummash     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
How would you define a geek?
A possible definition might be that a geek is someone who isn't just interested in being an 'end-user" of techology, s/he would want to know how it works, can it be made to work in a different way, can s/he design a better way of doing this themselves etc etc. This definiton is quite narrow though, and may need developing further.

Has the meaning of the word geek changed for you at all?
I don't think the meaning has changed, but the word does seem to carry a different value judgement. Back in the days when getting a TI/99 to play a piece of music meant programming each note for pitch & duration, no-one saw the point of geekiness and so it was a pejorative term. Now that everyone has a computer or other digital whotsit that needs maintainance, people see the need for geeks and they get some respect.

How would you define "geek culture".
It is a culture of the imagination, hence the main themes are science, new technology, science fiction & fantasy, comics etc. It's all about exploring alternatives to the status quo.

Has popular culture become geekier? If so, how do you feel about that?
Not really, it's just easier for people to be geeky without society looking down on them.

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...and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes...

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Serenak

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 05:08      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Interesting...

Geek: Grummash was pretty on the mark I would say, though you have to allow for brands of geekiness other than just computers.
Electronics/Radio Ham geeks, maths geeks, and so on.

These days it is rather less of an insult than it used to be and the common adoption of computers and other techie gadgets has made geeks rather more in demand to set-up/fix these for the Joe Average who doesn't understand how they work

Geek Culture: That is all about knowing and understanding... and exploring... hence the bias towards computers and science and math and SF. Though there are music geeks and art geeks too. Car mechanicing and rodding ought to be geeky too but isn't or wasn't (actually now maybe it is getting geeky again)... I wonder if that is because cars have become so ingrained into our culture... maybe in a while computers will be like cars... and not geeky.

I don't think mainstream society or pop culture have got more geeky at all... but geekdom has become more important to Joe Average in keeping his show on the road so the normal man in the street has more contact with geeks and relies on them more. I think pop culture now has just a bit of grudging respect for computer geeks and as such all geeks are a bit less ridiculed.

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"So if you want my address - it's No. 1 at the end of the bar, where I sit with the broken angels, clutching at straws and nursing my scars..."

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fs

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 09:06      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Snaggy:
How would you define a geek?

Generally, I would define a geek as a person who is interested in learning and becomes very involved in their intellectual pursuits. (As a corollary to that, I would also say "someone who tends to intellectualize their pursuits" - like the guy who has a blackbelt, but can also tell you the entire history of not only his own martial arts style, but many others, how they related to the culture that evolved them, etc.) It does carry connotations of interest in computers and technology, but those things have become so pervasive that they can tie into almost every interest.

quote:
Has the meaning of the word geek changed for you at all?
For myself, not really. I grew up being one of the "ask her, she's smart" kids to my classmates, but I don't have any horrible stories about being teased or bullied because of it. I transitioned from high school to college in the mid 90s, and all of a sudden geeks were making money, driving nice cars, had offices with windows, four bedroom houses with in-ground pools and surround sound home theater systems, and all the other bling that mainstream culture identified with success and therefore were worthy of a grudging admiration.

quote:
How would you define "geek culture".
I think maybe it used to be guys just hanging out in their basements by themselves or with a couple friends building radios and computer kits. Now, who knows? It has all the hallmarks of a subculture, including it's own argot (my mother says some days she doesn't think I even speak English - usually when she calls me for computer help), it's own folkways (LotR, Star Trek, "put the computer in the box and send it back" and "cup-holder" stories, etc.), it's own mores (there is a lot of crossover between alternative sexuality subcultures such as furries, swinging, and BDSM communities and geek subculture), values (geek culture tends to respect knowledge and intelligence above race, class, sexual orientation, etc.) and even prejudices (intolerance of those thought to be less intelligent, particularly "jocks").

quote:
Has popular culture become geekier?
No, I don't think so. Popular culture has adopted the tools and the stereotype, but mainstream popular culture really just wants to be able to email pictures hot off their digital camera to grandma on Christmas day and the like. Geeks in mainstream culture are filling a niche similar to that of mechanics. People don't care how it works, they just want someone to make it work again when it's broken. People don't change their oil and they don't update their virus definitions.

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Callipygous
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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 12:35      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't think I can add much to what has already been said. How the rest of the world defines "geek" is one thing, and though I don't think the meaning has changed much, the word seems to have lost much of the stigma it had even when you started this site.

However as far as this forum goes I do think the members define themselves more by a shared outlook on the world, rather than merely a more narrow interest in technology science and silicon. It is an outsider, slightly square peg outlook, but also optimistic as far as the future goes, driven by intellectual curiosity in all fields, and partly because of this last aspect, it is innately tolerant and inclusive. It has much in common with the best of what were the attitudes of the thing that called itself the counter culture in the 1960's, much as this might upset those members with right wing convictions!

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"Knowledge is Power. France is Bacon" - Milton

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 13:49      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was going to post a protracted answer, until I realised that Firesnake had said much of it far better than I would have, so this will be (mercifully) quite a bit shorter.

One thing I'd like to add though, is the quirky sense of humour that's common among geeks. Geeks love to joke around, but it's not the mainstream "Two cowboys walk into a bar..." kind of joking, the geek sense of humour requires a bit of thought, and usually revolves around word-play, or a good knowledge of some geeky subject, or making a tenuous link between two seemingly unrelated items. Geeks are more likely to laugh at Steven Wright than Eddie Murphy.

Let's look at a few current GC examples of geeky humour...

1. Someone posts a "this company is hiring" message, and it prompts a joke about Schroedingers Cat. Would non-geeks tell jokes about theoretical physics?

2. We currently have 2 Monty-python quotefests running...

2a. In a thread where a persistent troll was once again trying to start a fight, people respond to his post with a long string of silly Monty Python quotes. The use of humour to turn aside agression is a common geeky trait.

2b. A thread on bird-flu reaches a report on the death of a parrot...


while the subject matter is non-technical, the fascination with a 30+ year old comedy, and ability to quote verbatim entire scenes, is ++geeky.

3. The 4-letter word game, while not actually humourous, shows the geeky love of word-play.

4. This weeks 'Friday Five' is titled "make 'em laugh" - nuff said.

5. We're on page 32 of The Mother Of All Punfests.

6. Oh, and of course, there's JOT and the late lamented AY2K, which is what brought most of us here in the first place. How many non-geek comics would feature Newton, Babbage, and Ada Byron?

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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SplitDecision
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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 13:52      Profile for SplitDecision         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Memories from childhood... A geek fit nicely headfirst in a garbage can. Also was thought to enjoy wedgies.

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sd

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Grummash

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 14:15      Profile for Grummash     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Picking up on TFD's insightful analysis, I would like to post a joke (which I realise you may have heard already as it is a bit old [ohwell] ).. and I understand that we have The Joke Bank for this sort of thing, but I think you will see why I want to post it in this thread.

A major University decides to hold a summer school for Faculty Heads, to try and improve inter-faculty communication. The first exercise is intended to show how different academic disciplines think, and the problem is " Equipped with only a barometer, determine the height of the tallest buiding on campus."

The physics guy said that by taking a reading of atmospheric pressure at the foot of the tower, and again at the top, he could calculate the height of the building based on the difference between the readings.

The Head of Mathematics said that by holding the barometer at arms length and pacing away from the building until the barometer exactly obscured it, she could calculate the height of the building by the principle of similar triangles.

The guy from Social Sciences went up to the Caretaker (Janitor) and said..."if I give you this barometer, will you tell me how high the building is?"

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...and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes...

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Serenak

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Icon 1 posted October 23, 2005 16:56      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just a as it happens post - BBC News 24 is now plugging Open Office,and a free font site....

Just a view of how FOSS is beginnig to impact the mainstream here in the UK...

Now back to the program in progress..

This also appears in another thread... 'cause i didn't remember I'd clicked the next thread...

Doh....

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"So if you want my address - it's No. 1 at the end of the bar, where I sit with the broken angels, clutching at straws and nursing my scars..."

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ASM65816
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Icon 1 posted October 24, 2005 01:14      Profile for ASM65816   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Has popular culture become geekier? If so, how do you feel about that?
  No. In many cases "popular culture" merely provides imitations. My favorite example from movies is "Transform-the-Geek-Girl-into-a-Super-Model-by-Removing-Glasses."

Has the meaning of the word geek changed for you at all?
Since the days of the Apple II ? No. [Razz]

How would you define a geek?
quote:
If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.
    Note: There are several variations on this -- Cool, Powerful, a Lady....

For the most part, I let the population subjectively define "geek." A lot of it comes from what a geek isn't; if you're elitist, you're probably elitist, not a geek. If you pull out a checklist on a piece of paper and say "I'm all this," you're probably an imitator (poser), not a geek. In the "social circles" that I've been around most, "geek" is an observation about someone as opposed to being a judgment of good or bad. As a result, I think of the "modern" use of the Japanese term "otaku" as being very similar (old use of "otaku" tends to be derogatory).

How would you define "geek culture"?
I'd like to think that given a set of "geeks" with different backgrounds, interests and values (as opposed to geeks with identical values), you would essentially find little or no conflict, and by external observation, the "set" would appear to be a single society seeking the best for individuals and the society as a whole. Ideally, geeks are not like other cultures where values set by society make conflict with other cultures a very common outcome.

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Once a proud programmer of Apple II's, he now spends his days and nights in cheap dives fraternizing with exotic dancers....

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Tech Angel
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Icon 1 posted October 24, 2005 21:40      Profile for Tech Angel     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Grummash:
"Equipped with only a barometer, determine the height of the tallest buiding on campus.".....

You might be interested to know that that joke is based on an actual first person account by Dr. Alexander Calandra in his 1961 textbook "The Teaching of Elementary Science of Mathematics". It was later published as an essay titled "Angels on the Head of a Pin" in the Dec. 21, 1968 Saturday Review (though the last paragraph may have been added by the magazine's editor). It's not clear whether Dr. Calandra based this story on a true incident involving a real student or simply made it up to illustrate a point. Regardless, it's a telling tale about how strict pedagogy can get in the way of creative thinking. The story has appeared in numerous incarnations since, as described here.

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We must be the change we want to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

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Tech Angel
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Icon 1 posted October 24, 2005 21:42      Profile for Tech Angel     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I can't add too much to what's already been written above. Being one of the "Geek Elders" (been at it since the early '70's), I see the biggest change is that where "geek" used to be a derogatory label, it is now a coveted title I can be openly proud of. And "Geekculture" (with both the uppercase and lowercase "g") helps to make that possible.

And what does the term mean? To me, a geek is someone who narrowly focuses on and immerses him/herself in one area of study to the exclusion of others, usually something technical (as opposed to artistic). While I often feel this compromises my broader understanding of life and the world, that focus (nay, passion) allows me to create so much more as a result. But your mileage may vary... [Wink]

(Edit)

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We must be the change we want to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

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GameMaster
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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 02:35      Profile for GameMaster   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Originally posted by Grummash:
A major University decides to hold a summer school for Faculty Heads, to try and improve inter-faculty communication. The first exercise is intended to show how different academic disciplines think, and the problem is " Equipped with only a barometer, determine the height of the tallest buiding on campus."

The physics guy said that by taking a reading of atmospheric pressure at the foot of the tower, and again at the top, he could calculate the height of the building based on the difference between the readings.

The Head of Mathematics said that by holding the barometer at arms length and pacing away from the building until the barometer exactly obscured it, she could calculate the height of the building by the principle of similar triangles.

The guy from Social Sciences went up to the Caretaker (Janitor) and said..."if I give you this barometer, will you tell me how high the building is?"


I really like the joke, but the physics prof would just drop it off the top of the building, and count the seconds it takes to fall. g = 9.8 m/s/s.

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GameMaster
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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 02:52      Profile for GameMaster   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I know, replying to myself... Ah well.

How would you define a geek?
A geek is someone who takes pleasure in solving intulectual problem. Someone who is obessed with mastery of knowledge (in general to some extent, but even more so aimed at an area they enjoy/excel at). There is definatly a obessive quality to it, and some deranged satisfaction to staying up all night pumped full of caffine waiting for the compiler to spit out something that is exceptable enough to release the "Eureka" endorphines --that you wouldn't be able to sleep without.

Has the meaning of the word geek changed for you at all? (We'd be particularily interested in hearing from Geek Elders on this one... how was the word geek perceived in previous decades.)
I'm a young-un I'm afraid. I don't recall punch cards, only tales of them.

How would you define "geek culture".
I think there are definate ties to gaming (old pen and paper RPGs on down to Doom III), sci-fi and fantasy genre.

Has popular culture become geekier?
Yes, and no. There are lots of people who want to be geeks the money. There are lots of people who want to be "h4XORz" for the "1337"ness of it. This new wanna-be geek phenomon I think is new. As is the taking geekculture items and running them in the mainstream. LOTR, anime, HHGTTG, Isac Asimov's "I, Robot" and the like; for instance.

If so, how do you feel about that?
Partly bugs me, because the things that define our culture are being gobbled up by the culture at large. Perhaps I'm a hint elietest, but I liked being able to tell whose a geek by making a reference to some of the "traditionally geek" things that have been swallowed by the western culture as a whole.

On the other hand, it has made a lot of things better. LOTR was a great movie, anime and manga is now a lot easier to come by and the like.

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Zwilnik

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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 05:17      Profile for Zwilnik   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
To me, being a Geek is defined as someone who enjoys the pursuit of knowledge and use technology for the sake of it rather than for the ultimate purpose it achieves. For instance a geek would rather do an archaeology course to learn about stuff, rather than do a business course to help a future career, or buy a new gadget because it's interesting, rather than because it can actually do something.

As it's become more mainstream, I've seen the word Geek become separate from the general category of Geeks and Nerds (and become completely separate from its original meaning, i.e a weirdo in a circus who would eat anything). Although non-geeks do often still confuse Geeks and Nerds. (I define Nerds as people with the same compulsive behaviours that are typical of Geeks, but without the IQ, so they are typically train spotters, collectors of TV show themed toys etc.). Note, it's possibly to be mix the two. Typically even serious Uber Geeks can have the odd Nerdy trait though [Wink]

Geek Culture could be defined as the current positive trend towards realising that the modern tradition of fitting into the mainstream ideal of being a non-thinking super sportsman with a mapped our career in banking/doctoring/lawyering isn't necessarily the best way to go.

As companies have realised they can make money from selling stuff to Geeks, there's been an increase in the amount of geeky type stuff in the public eye. Although the successful stuff is the group of toys that are designed by geeks to be used by non geeks (Apple's iPod shuffle being the perfect example of this). The purely gimmicky stuff being marketed at high street level to geeks isn't doing so well. All the Gadget Shops nearby have closed recently for instance as Geeks always buy online anyway [Wink]

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The most important of which is the element of surprise.

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quantumfluff
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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 06:52      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think TechAngel made a very significant point about "Geek" changing from a label to a title.

Yet, I don't think popular culture has become any geekier. It has become more technology oriented (and confused with computer geekiness), but is still obsessed with the superficial, rather than what is beneath. So, while you can now inspire awe for being able to recite the entire "Holy Grail" from memory, people will still think you are a little wierder than you should be.

I have a theory about the difference between the "computer geek" and the "any-other-topic geek" and how the evolution of the first made the other acceptable.

In my youth, geeks (of any sort) were always outsiders and got little respect.

As technology became mainstream and former geeks become business successes, the word "geek" took on a respectable tone. (The change to title). But it's not entirely respect - it is also fear. What I believe happened is that people began to realize that the computer geek had arcane knowledge that others could use. They became wizards. They had the ability to do magical things for you, but could be tempermental and quick to anger. You used them when you had to, but you never dropped by for tea.

I think the word "Geek", benefited from this transition by piggy-backing on the image of the "Computer Geek". It became cool to have a game show on MTV (Beat the Geeks) featuring Geeks in popular culture subjects. The guy who knew everything about movies went from being a wierdo 20 years ago to sitting on a throne on TV today. He's still not someone you want to hang with, but he gets an honorific.

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GMx

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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 07:32      Profile for GMx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I also think that while geeks have become more prevalent in movies and TV it's only superficial. It's obvious that the people that write the scripts aren't exactly geeks themselves. I always get annoyed when one of those crime dramas shows the computer geek taking a grainy photo or surveilence video and cleaning up on the computer until it's perfectly sharp and clear. Although you can make some adjustments, you can't add any clarity to what the camera didn't pick up. A picture is only as good as the equipment that records it.

Geeks are usually specialists in one field and spend all their time obssessing about it. Computer geeks, fantasy geeks, Star Wars Geeks, gaming geeks, role playing geeks, etc.

I think it's not an insult to be called a geek anymore. It's not the days of when wrestler Fred Blassie called someone a "pencil-necked geek." (Geek points for those who know Fred Blassie. Extra points for those who can name the short movie he was in with Andy Kaufman and where it was set.) [Wink]

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Grummash

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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 11:05      Profile for Grummash     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
It's not clear whether Dr. Calandra based this story on a true incident involving a real student or simply made it up to illustrate a point. Regardless, it's a telling tale about how strict pedagogy can get in the way of creative thinking. The story has appeared in numerous incarnations since, as described here.
Wow...I didn't realise my little joke was that old....

Thanks TechAngel..very interesting stuff [Smile]

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...and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes...

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ChildeRoland
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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 12:32      Profile for ChildeRoland     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
(Geek points for those who know Fred Blassie. Extra points for those who can name the short movie he was in with Andy Kaufman and where it was set.) [Wink]
1. Professional wrestler
2. My Breakfast with Blassie
3. and in some pancake house (not sure where, I'm thinking West coast).

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GMx

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Icon 1 posted October 25, 2005 14:51      Profile for GMx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sambo's. I used to work at one. [Eek!]
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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted October 30, 2005 18:02      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I considered a much longer reply, but most of what I could add has been said in one form or other. There are a couple of bits that I can add.

Has popular culture become geekier?

Geeks are a subculture. Popular culture draws elements from most subcultures. As a hallmark element of a subculture is taken on by popular culture, that particular element is considered less and less of a hallmark by the members of that subculture.

Popular culture evolves by feeding off of subcultures. Subcultures evolve by taking on new elements, often diverging into two or more subcultures themselves. Geek, nerd and dork were used interchangeably at one time, for example, but have since come to mean somewhat different things.

So, has popular culture become geekier? In the sense that it has absorbed elements that were once identified as hallmarks of being a geek, yes it has. Consider, however, that when an hallmark is taken on by popular culture, by definition it cannot be a hallmark of a subculture (although some members of that subculture will do their best to cling to it none the less).

If so, how do you feel about that?

Personally, I couldn't care less. At best I only marginally identify with any given subculture and even then the connections are tenuous. I'm far more of an outsider than most, even in those subcultures I do identify with. As a result, popular culture absorbing a hallmark element of a subculture I identify with has no real effect on me.

Well... no real effect beyond some amusement when I realize that I've started a meme that others are picking up on because I'm just blindly plowing through life and making no effort to fit in or do anything popular (and that's enough psychoanalysis of me).

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Worst. Celibate. Ever.

Posts: 6364 | From: Tennessee | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged
Snaggy

Sir Snaggalot!
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Icon 14 posted October 30, 2005 18:18      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
STEEN! long time no post... great to see you back. [Big Grin] [Applause]
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quantumfluff
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 14 posted October 30, 2005 19:22      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ditto that. Haven't seen a post from you in ages.
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JulioC
Geek
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Icon 1 posted October 31, 2005 04:26      Profile for JulioC     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hmm.. for me being a geek is being a fan of overlooked forms of art and technology, like:

-wonderfully scripted Neil Gaiman graphic novel,
-an episode of some obscure old tv show (like whats Im downloading now, Nowhere Man)
-an enjoyable World of darkness roleplaying session,
-fiddling around with my DS to try and enable some rudimentary TC/IP wireless

-or listn to some non-mainstream band like Nine Inch Nails.

Posts: 182 | From: Brazil | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged


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