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Technology Culture Interplay

By RadiantMatrix in Culture
Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:47:44 AM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

Nearly every technical person (herein, geek) that I've met readily identifies themselves as part of the "geek culture." While I certainly don't deny that there is a very strong geek culture - and I am proud to claim membership in it - I can't help but think about the many cultures that have been lumped together under the "geek" umbrella.

What I pose to K5 is an opportunity for us all to learn more about each other, and how our geek culture interplays with other cultures we may be a part of.


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This idea was provoked by a discussion with several friends in IRC about what led us to become interested in technology, and what interests have stemmed from it. I've found that only a few became involved because they were interested only in computing, while quite a lot became involved because another culture they were part of exposed them to it.

For example, one of my friends is a musician, and is now learning to program. Why? Because he discovered online tab (for those not familiar with Guitar, tab[ulature] is a kind of "shorthand" musical notation specific to the instrument), and got to thinking of ways to generate TAB from MIDI files, and vice-versa. Another is a bookkeeper that became a very effective sysadmin to fill a niche - administering company managment information networks.

End result, I understood these people better, and I had a deeper insight into the value of the varied community that makes up the Geek Culture. A result like that, I just can't keep to myself: so in an effort to further understand the K5 group - and to help us all understand each other - I propose we have the same type of discussion here.

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Technology Culture Interplay | 22 comments (20 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
One of the few? (3.22 / 9) (#1)
by cysgod on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 04:33:41 AM EST

I've found that only a few became involved because they were interested only in computing
I find it hard to believe that I'm one of the few. I grew up on a Sinclair ZX-80, then a VIC-20, then a Commodore 64, then a Mac IIcx, then a Mac Classic of my own, inherited the IIcx and put NetBSD on it, etc. I graduated with a degree in computer science and haven't regretted a day of my life of computing.

I really enjoy working with computers. I find computer science to be entertaining. Most of the co-workers I know come from this same background. They didn't happen into computing because of music, art, or something. They are genuinely interested in computing as its own medium.

The big clue here, is that Richard Stallman didn't write Emacs because he was interested in editing text manuscripts for his next book, "The GNU Manifesto" This man was interested in computers. And so am I, and so are most of my coworkers.

Congratulations to those who the work of computeers serve, glad to have you with us. But please, don't marginalize those who dig computing for computings sake. There are more of us than you think, and we write that software that you use to talk to MIDI devices, and administer your network. I appreciate the musicians, and they can appreciate my work too.

Re: One of the few? (2.50 / 4) (#3)
by electricbarbarella on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 05:09:28 AM EST

I also got into computers just for computing.

I started out teaching myself BASIC on our Commodore 64 at the grand age of 6. I'm now currently involved in teaching myself some of the ins and outs of Linux and some of the finer points of Perl. I graduate with my BS (appropriate abbreviation, IMHO) in CS in spring of '02. From there I'm going to Georgia Tech to hit up their graduate program for my masters in CS.

I love to learn theory. Logic gates/circuits fill me with delight. I can scarcely put into words the feeling that I felt when i saw how SIMPLE basic memory circuits were.

I am Geek. My significant other is Geek. My friends are almost all Geek. We share the same thirst. It's a beautiful thing.



-Andy Martin, Home of the Whopper.
Not everything is quantifiable.
[ Parent ]
Re: One of the few? (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by cysgod on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 06:34:37 AM EST

I am Geek. My significant other is Geek. My friends are almost all Geek. We share the same thirst. It's a beautiful thing.
Well I fear those situations to be completely honest. My soon-to-be-wife is studying law and working for the IRS. Not quite geek. But that's fine, I enjoy being able to kick back and talk about jazz music and the merits of a bottle of Corona and not be forced to think about boolean operators and this weeks flavor of RAM/Processor slot.

Even if you're the geekest computer geek, we all ought to take a vacation some time. You come up with the neatest ideas...

Me: "No, really honey... can we please have horizontal sliding doors in the house."
Her: "No, and that's the last time I buy you a Star Trek movie for your birthday."

Life is grand.

[ Parent ]
Re: One of the few? (4.25 / 4) (#4)
by RadiantMatrix on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 05:14:06 AM EST

But please, don't marginalize those who dig computing for computings sake. There are more of us than you think, and we write that software that you use to talk to MIDI devices, and administer your network. I appreciate the musicians, and they can appreciate my work too.
I think you read too much into what I said. I certainly don't marginalize those who compute for computing's sake -- I'm one of them. I have developed interests in reverse (like graphic arts, which I still suck at), but I digress...

What I said was based on a sample of "a few of my friends", and this is what got me thinking. I don't know what we are all like, or what all our backgrounds are, so I wanted to find out!
--
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

I don't really think of myself as a "geek&quo (3.77 / 9) (#5)
by spiralx on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 05:14:30 AM EST

I learnt programming a long, long time ago, before I even had a computer and I've been using them ever since then, and I work as a programmer now. But I don't really consider myself a geek, or part of any "Geek Culture" (especially if that's in anyway related to that awful message board... *shudder*).

Sure I run Linux at home, I read /. and k5 at work and I'm interested in technology and science, but that's just not the sole focus of my life or even the main one. Doing these things and enjoying them is a large part of who I am, but labelling myself from them seems kind of limiting.

But as for interests I'd be suprised if most people here came to computing from other areas. It seems most "geeks" (for want of a better term :) have a mindset where they've always been interested in technology. For me it's the other way around - I've gotten interested in music since using my computer for (trying) to write it...


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

Re: I don't really think of myself as a "geek (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by Triseult on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 12:03:22 PM EST

I agree with you. When I first ran across the word 'geek', (as it was explained to me, 'Like Nerd, but not demeaning') I took it to mean anybody who doesn't fit the mold. The typical geeks were intelligent, often introverts, but even those two qualifiers didn't always describe them. As a matter of fact, most of the people today who call themselves geeks don't even claim technological knowledge or interest. I know RPG geeks, music geeks, and science geeks, to name a few.

I accepted 'geek' as a fair description of who I was, for lack of a better category. I can't say I'm comfortable with the current use of the word, however. Technology is something I dig, and I sure work in the field, but 50% of my interests lie outside that field. I've taken to the term 'intellectual', since it's strictly true that I make a living of my writing. I think by trying too much to define what a 'geek' is (as of this posting, I think they're trying to include 'Linux user' in the definition), we've killed any chance of the word meaning anything worthwhile.

It's getting to the point where 'nerd' is a more appropriate denominator...

[ Parent ]

guilty as charged (4.00 / 7) (#8)
by dash2 on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 07:15:17 AM EST

I think I am a classic example of someone who got into computers by a circuitous route: never touched them since my ZX Spectrum at 7-13, then got interested in the web and wrote a website for a MP I was working for... then decided websites had to be dynamic... ASP was swiftly followed by PHP and then PERL.

In other words, I am the kind of person real programmers look down upon, with some reason. I don't know any serious programming languages, and I don't really understand the internals of a computer - well, better than the man in the street / woman in the lounge, but still not really.

There's a lot of us about. I think this is the biggest reason for people getting into computers: the internet. You start off browsing, then you decide to build your own... and if you have a certain mentality then you get your hands dirty with HTML. Then you realise you want more, and that there's a potential career in this. I don't know if this will keep happening: if the internet just becomes a sort of multimedia experience, provided by professionals, then perhaps this DIY aspect will be lost.

Meanwhile, I am at the stage where I need to take the next leap and learn some proper stuff: Java? C? C++? Of course, I couldn't face a CS degree... I like to learn as I go along. Anyone been along the same path and want to offer their advice?
------------------------
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
Re: guilty as charged (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by Luke Scharf on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:19:28 AM EST

In other words, I am the kind of person real programmers look down upon, with some reason. I don't know any serious programming languages, and I don't really understand the internals of a computer - well, better than the man in the street / woman in the lounge, but still not really.

You know what you know. The people that get to me are the ones who think they know everything but know nothing.

Were we to work together, you'd definetly have stuff to teach me (I just learned that PHP exists), and I'd have stuff to teach you (writing a device driver is fun).



[ Parent ]
Re: guilty as charged (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by dabadab on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:27:00 AM EST

"Then you realise you want more, and that there's a potential career in this." - you wrote.

Well, I think this is exactly why some ... uhmm... "newcomers" are looked at with contempt - they are in just for the money, not for the love of technology.
But I think it is not unique for geeks though - carrierist are regarded with contempt everywhere.

ps: I do not mean offense to you and I don't want to implicate that you are a carrierists - it is just that your words got my mind going :)
--
Real life is overrated.
[ Parent ]

Re: guilty as charged (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by dorsai on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:33:41 AM EST

Indeed - I'm the "script guy" (ASP & other "layman" tools) in a firm of C++ programmers, it is not always a fun thing ... of course the ability to cobble something together in a flat second does make it up somehow.

In my country (Portugal) there are no community colleges or any such thing - either you go through a gruelling process of college admission (in my case I'd have to re-do 2 years of high-school - I'm 27!) and then stick through a 5-year-minimum course, or you "buy a book" and make do. Works fine for small projects of restricted scope - but it doesn't scale well.

Of course experience helps - immensely, but Portugal is still very much "degree centered". YMMV in the States, of course, so if you can get a firm first job without college, you should consider it. But do keep your options open.

On a related subject I'd love to hear about resources regarding the planning of a learning process for guys who "sideslipped" into IT and want to get into programming in a serious manner.

Dorsai

Dorsai the sigless


[ Parent ]
Geek culture (4.40 / 5) (#13)
by Caranguejeira on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 12:10:09 PM EST

From FOLDOC:

computer geek
<jargon> (Or "turbo nerd", "turbo geek") One who eats (computer) bugs for a living. One who fulfils all the dreariest negative stereotypes about hackers: an asocial, malodourous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all the personality of a cheese grater. The term cannot be used by outsiders without implied insult to all hackers; compare black-on-black usage of "nigger". A computer geek may be either a fundamentally clueless individual or a proto-hacker in larval stage.

Most common attributes associated with the geek stereotype, which may or may not apply to any one geek:

1) Introverted
2) Malhygenic
3) Homely
4) Atheist
5) Apathetic
6) Outspoken
7) Arrogant
8) Cynical
9) Intelligent

I have observed various strata of geekdom:

The Primordial Geek is a middle-aged or older software developer or computer enthusiast whose "larval stage" has long passed. They were geeks before there were "geeks." They would not consider themselves geeks today. Generally they do not satisfy the terms of traditional geekdom. Most are now ordinary citizens with ordinary families and ordinary work hours. Many of them did not experience technology as kids. Most have studied computer science or have a degree in a related field. Some teach. These geeks generally don't have any serious devotions to a particular technology. They aren't crusading for a cause.

The Coevolutionary Geek got an early start with computers. Since early youth, this kind of geek has been exposed to the various incarnations of personal and home computing. Their fist computers did not run a Microsoft OS, but they probably have spent considerable following years with a PC. Some of them use Macintoshes. They are still fairly young, and many have already taken advantage of several years of work experience. A bunch of them have recently completed college degrees, but most of them scoff at higher education. Many are going through the famed "larval stage" or have recently finished it. A great many of them have grown disgusted with Microsoft and are turning to alternative OSes. Some of them have been making good money, but at a cost of long hours. These were geeks before the Internet was big, and spent many hours on BBSes. Coevolutionary Geeks have diverse computer interests.

The Contemporary Geek is a divergent group of people. A lot of them are high-school kids that have grown up with Microsoft and still dream of the MCSE. Some of them are Script Kiddies. Others are putting together buzzword-laden resumes in hopes of landing that Web Development job. Other Contemporary Geeks are older folks who figure computers is where it's at, so they are trying to jump on the bandwagon. These geeks like certifications, some are trying for a degree because it will make them more marketable. Others are simply hobbyists that have recently found a relevant link between computers and their hobby, often involving the Internet. A lot of them may never reach the "larval stage." A few of them have heard of alternate technologies, not by Microsoft. They think that by using these alternatives, they will become part of an elite group. Most Contemporary Geeks are surrounded by the latest tech hype, except for the hobbyists. A log of serious gamers in this group.

It is also common to apply the term "geek" to other kinds of people (i.e. musicians, artists, thesbians). However, all these kinds of geeks display the same single-minded devotion to their hobby. A lot of them are turning to computers because of the computer's sudden relevance in their field of interest.




Dual-Geek (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by Erf on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 12:31:59 PM EST

I'm actually (at least) two different flavours of geek: computer, and physics. I didn't get into computers because of physics, or vice versa -- I've been interested in both for as long as I can remember. Physics is definitely my career, and I use computers for that (mmmm, FORTRAN...), but computers are also a hobby.

I have a number of other hobbies, most of which have little or nothing to do with the computer, or with physics. But I'm very much a geek. That fact permeates a great deal of what I do.

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...

Re: Dual-Geek (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by dragosani on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 12:52:04 PM EST

Same here. I started messing around with computers and AI way back in the 70s, doing science fairs at school and all, but got hooked on modern physics not too long after that. Physics is more of a hobby, although it was my college major before I dropped out, but computers are my profession. It also helped with getting approval from my wife's father, who is professionally a physicist and vocationally a computer geek! -- Brett

[ Parent ]
Re: Dual-Geek (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by dragosani on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 01:21:27 PM EST

Same here. I started messing around with computers and AI way back in the 70s, doing science fairs at school and all, but got hooked on modern physics not too long after that. Physics is more of a hobby, although it was my college major before I dropped out, but computers are my profession. It also helped with getting approval from my wife's father, who is professionally a physicist and vocationally a computer geek! -- Brett

[ Parent ]
Re: Dual-Geek: Ditto (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Triseult on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:32:53 PM EST

That describes me fairly well also, or at least it did a few years back. I always tinkered with computers, from the day I got my first Timex-Sinclair 1000. I also had a deep fascination for science, and physics in particular. I decided to study physics in Uni. because it never occured to me to work in computers; and when I found how little (read: f*-all) you could do with a physics degree, I switched to computers.

I think science and computers definitely go hand-in-hand, and I'm not surprised this type of cross-wiring happens often. After all, I think both fields thrive on a deep and insatiable curiosity with the way things work and how to make them work in new and nifty ways.

[ Parent ]

Most Are in for the $$$$ (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by Dunkin0 on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:10:49 PM EST

I grauated college last year, currently working full time as a programmer.

While in college i found that many of my piers had no real intrest in computers, other than
they liked using them. and in the end all they wanted is the well paying jobs.

The few that were very skilled in programming seem to have droped the use of those skills for the money of MIS jobs for financial companies.

what i am saying is that in college i knew verry few people who enjoyed programming. i see
most of these people using the geek culture to move to other culturs via social networking. or just changing jobs because they got fustrated with a bug.

I have always said that if programmers were paid (US)$5.50 / hr ide still be doing it. its just somthing i love doing. i am geek to the core, electroinic, math, physics.... top my life.

before i got into computers i was going to study art. but then my friend showed me a game on his Apple II and i was amazed when i saw a ASCII art image of Mr. T and said hey i can do that (NOT) my skills went from graphics to OSes as i went to school and learned more and more about computers.


Funny! (1.00 / 2) (#18)
by jcterminal on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:23:11 PM EST

"I grauated college last year..."

that's the funniest line i've seen here in weeks!
---==*==---
mind: www.crashspace.org
body: i.jcterminal.com
soul: www.jcterminal.com
[ Parent ]
Sometimes, I am so stereotypical... (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by canthidefromme on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 03:20:04 PM EST

That I scare myself. I am a mathlete (Mathcounts--> ASHME-->Putnam), former child chess prodigy, have a 300-baud modem at home, love PDEs, Statistical Thermodynamics, ipchains, Python, Quake and Star Trek(but not DS9). I own a pocket protector (but it was free!) and learned how to use a slide rule just for fun. I have carpal tunnel at age 17.

I think one of the hardest decisions I've ever made was 2 years ago, when deciding where to go to college (oh you better believe I'm a nerd=)). I got into CMU, MIT, and NYU Stern School of Business. I actually chose NYU because I felt that my particular set of skills would benefit the Financial world the best. I'm planning on getting a masters/Ph.D in Applied Math/Math Finance.

I guess you could call it a career change in the opposite direction. I've been coding for my whole life, then switched.

I've also found that in various IT jobs that I've had, I've faced significant discrimination. I suppose that when others see that I'm young, female, good looking and well-dressed, they don't think that I'm "hardcore" enough, or don't take me seriously.

-j

jf542@stern.nyu.edu

jf542@stern.nyu.edu
This takes me back... (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by Tatarigami on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 04:21:34 PM EST

I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by computers. I never actually got to touch one until I was in high school, but I've never been without one since, and I've never looked away from IT as a profession.

I'm also a big fan of anime, which some people would tell you is a very geeky thing to be into. And it's true my dealer (an old flatmate) is also in IT, though he's moving into a teaching role.

That aside, I'm not sure I really qualify to call myself a geek. I've taken some programming classes, but these days simple javascript is all the code I deal with. I handle the email helpdesk for an ISP tech support desk.

(5.00 / 2) (#22)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 07:40:05 PM EST

I played with computers briefly in 7th and 8th grade, but then lost interest in high school. Up until my first or second year in college, I was interested in political science and international relations; in college, however, I ran up against the dual realities that (a) most people who were studying such things didn't actually care about them; (b) most people active in politics were more interested in promoting their own status and ego than trying to get anything done.

At the time, many of my friends were into computers, and I had gotten a low-paying job helping people in the student computer labs. This led me inexorably down the path to programming, which was (to me) easy; the path from there was clear. I enjoy parts of programming --- figuring out why things are broken is a lot of fun, designing fixes is fun, implementing them, less so. I've found, too, that the people that are into it *for the money* are usually less good at it than people that are into it for love; I wonder if that's true of all industries?

I retain a strong interest in politics and international relations, and end up serving as a political analyst for most of my friends. I'm also trying to develop skills as a skateboarder, and a motorcycle rider. :)



Technology Culture Interplay | 22 comments (20 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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