Geeks, Freaks, And Nerds


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  • Star Trek Font: Einstein:
  • Geeks, Freaks, And Nerds

    1. 1. Geek = knowledge + Passion { } 2 Joyce M Lanterman GA State University
    2. 2. Who are they? <ul><li>Geek : </li></ul><ul><li>A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy. </li></ul><ul><li>A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept. </li></ul><ul><li>A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken. </li></ul><ul><li>Perhaps an alteration of geck , from Low German gek , meaning “fool.” </li></ul>American Heritage Dictionary (4th Ed, 2006) Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    3. 3. Where do they come from? <ul><li>Location, Location, Location </li></ul><ul><li>Overwhelming majority (92%) of respondents were from North America </li></ul><ul><li>Only 85 (8%) were from outside NA </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2 in South America </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4 in Africa </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>5 in Asia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>14 in Australia or New Zealand </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>60 in Europe </li></ul></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    4. 4. Where do they come from? <ul><li>Ethnicity </li></ul><ul><li>Most responses (85%) were “White/ Caucasian” </li></ul><ul><li>160 other options (15%) were checked : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>47 Asians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>43 Native Americans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>30 Latinos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>13 Africans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>11 Middle Easterners </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2 Pacific Islanders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 Pakeha (indigenous New Zealander) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 Romani (Gypsy) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>5 said they were “mixed” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7 wise guys said they were human </li></ul></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    5. 5. What Do They Want? Top 10 activities indicated on survey Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    6. 6. Language <ul><li>965 (95%) respondents spoke English as an L1 </li></ul><ul><li>45 (5%) respondents spoke other L1s: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 German </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>6 Spanish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3 each French, Russian, Finnish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2 each Portuguese, Urdu, Turkish, Swedish, Cantonese, Dutch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 each Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Punjabi, Croatian, Danish, Filipino </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Respondents claimed expertise in 16 L2s: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, English, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Latin, Old English, Middle English, Renaissance English, HTML, Esperanto, and Klingon </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All respondents with L1s other than English claimed expertise in English as an L2 (survey offered in English only). </li></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    7. 7. <ul><li>Released stops: possible index of education, literacy & precision </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ashburn (2000) – Science Fiction Fans (panel comments) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Benor (2001) – Orthodox Jewish Men </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bucholtz (1996) – Girl Nerds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Podesva et al. (2002) – Gay Activist Lawyer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We “talk like books,” in complex clauses </li></ul><ul><li>Often mispronounce words that we’ve only seen in print </li></ul><ul><li>Fanspeak, Geekspeak--Specialized jargon from books, movies, gaming, internet, computers, etc. </li></ul>Language Joyce M Lanterman
    8. 8. <ul><li>Phonology and lexis not based on any natural language </li></ul><ul><li>Verb tenses indicated by time words (like Esperanto, ASL) </li></ul><ul><li>No case or gender, OVS word order </li></ul><ul><li>No adjectives – description expressed by verbs or noun suffixes </li></ul><ul><li>Klingon Language Institute in Flourtown, PA translates other works into Klingon, organizes meetings and summer camps </li></ul><ul><li>Nevertheless, not widely spoken </li></ul>Klingon Developed in 1983 by Dr. Marc Okrand of Berkeley University Linguistics Dept. for “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” Source: Judith Hermans – Klingon and its Users, Tilburg University 1999 Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    9. 9. Elvish <ul><li>Actually a family of languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien, author and Oxford philologist </li></ul><ul><li>Most common is Sindarin: </li></ul><ul><li>Phonology similar to Welsh </li></ul><ul><li>Mainly analytic grammar </li></ul><ul><li>“ Derived” from an “older” Elvish </li></ul><ul><li>language, Qenya </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabet is called Tengwar </li></ul>Source: Wikipedia Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    10. 10. A Geek By Any Other Name Source: LiveJournal learn_languages community Joyce M Lanterman n ørd Swedish friki Spanish mokh (brain), katib, adeeb (writer) North Africa Langweiler (boring person), Sonderling (“special” person), Streber (one who strives, climber), Aussenseiter (outsider) freak, nerd German taupe (mole) jiik French anorak, trainspotter nerd, geek UK English otaku (used to be insulting, now “cute”) Japanese arvutifriik (computer freak), nohik (teacher’s pet) Estonian gik Costa Rican Spanish teto (dummy) ñoño (buffoon) Mexican Spanish zadrot, botan Russian Pejorative Polite
    11. 11. Cons – Some Geeks are Fen <ul><li>What is a con? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Gathering of the community of fans (called science fiction fandom) of various forms of speculative fiction including science fiction and fantasy.” (Wikipedia) </li></ul><ul><li>Do all geeks go to cons? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>382 (38%) only go to one con a year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>274 (27%) respondents said they have never been to a con </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Of those, 118 (43%) have no interest in going to cons </li></ul></ul></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    12. 12. What Happens at a Con? <ul><li>Readings </li></ul><ul><li>Art Show </li></ul><ul><li>Gaming </li></ul><ul><li>Film Room </li></ul><ul><li>Filking </li></ul><ul><li>Concerts </li></ul><ul><li>Charity Events </li></ul><ul><li>Dealers’ Room </li></ul><ul><li>Guests </li></ul><ul><li>Panels </li></ul><ul><li>Con Suite </li></ul><ul><li>Hall Costumes </li></ul><ul><li>Masquerade </li></ul><ul><li>Dances </li></ul><ul><li>Room Parties </li></ul>Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    13. 13. Costumes/Cosplay <ul><li>Of the 737 respondents who go to cons: </li></ul><ul><li>370 (50%) said they make costumes </li></ul><ul><li>487 (66%) wear costumes (though they may not actually make them) </li></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    14. 14. Filk Music - &quot;Folk Songs for Folk Who Ain't Even Been Yet&quot; <ul><li>Origin – typo of “folk?” </li></ul><ul><li>Style – originally folk music, later branched into other styles </li></ul><ul><li>Instrumentation – Mainly acoustic instruments, lots of strings so you can sing and play </li></ul>Image: (4:10) Joyce M Lanterman
    15. 15. Stereotypes <ul><li>Intellect </li></ul><ul><li>Computers </li></ul><ul><li>Math/Science </li></ul><ul><li>No fashion sense </li></ul><ul><li>Unathletic, fat </li></ul><ul><li>All male </li></ul><ul><li>Immature </li></ul><ul><li>Socially inept </li></ul>(2:51) Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    16. 16. Images in Popular Culture Beauty and the Geek Joyce M Lanterman
    17. 17. Images in Popular Culture Big Bang Theory Joyce M Lanterman
    18. 18. Images in Popular Culture Revenge of the Nerds IEEE Simpsons Joyce M Lanterman
    19. 19. <ul><li>Sci-Fi is changing its name to Syfy. Why? </li></ul><ul><li>“ The name Sci-Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games…as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular.” </li></ul>BET changing its name. Why? “ The name BET has been associated with blacks and drug-dealing criminals in inner city ghettos…as opposed to the general public and the educated professional audience in particular.” What if another specialty TV station made a similar decision? Disclaimer: no one ever actually said this! It’s a hypothetical situation. Quote source: Tim Brooks, quoted at Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    20. 20. 1) Intellect/Education <ul><li>1002 respondents indicated level of education </li></ul><ul><li>47 of those (.05%) had a high school diploma or GED. Of those , 38% (18) were under age 19, i.e., still in high school </li></ul><ul><li>251 (25%) had “some college” </li></ul><ul><li>483 (48%) had an undergraduate degree </li></ul><ul><li>198 (20%) had a higher degree (MS, PhD, medical/law school) </li></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    21. 21. 2) & 3) Math, Science, Computers <ul><li>Employment: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>71 (7%) work in science or engineering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>162 (16%) work in a computer related field: hardware, software (most common response), web design, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most common responses after software were full-time student (14%) and education (8%) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interests: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>551 (53%) checked computer hardware or software design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>819 (80%) checked real world tech and space travel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>229 (29%) checked web design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>214 (21%) checked robotics </li></ul></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Images:,, Joyce M Lanterman
    22. 22. 4) No Fashion Sense <ul><li>T-shirts with intellectual sayings, sarcastic phrases, or in-jokes </li></ul>Joyce M Lanterman
    23. 23. 4) No Fashion Sense <ul><li>Shiny things: beads, glitter, rhinestones </li></ul>Joyce M Lanterman
    24. 24. 4) No Fashion Sense <ul><li>Long hair (men and women) </li></ul><ul><li>Body art: henna, tattoos, piercings </li></ul>French braid: Joyce M Lanterman
    25. 25. 4) No Fashion Sense <ul><li>Historically influenced clothing, esp Victorian or Renaissance: long skirts, poets’ blouses, corsets </li></ul>
    26. 26. 4) No Fashion Sense <ul><li>Other cultures: Kilts (Utilikilts), harem pants, kimonos, Celtic motifs, cholis </li></ul>Joyce M Lanterman
    27. 27. 4) No Fashion Sense <ul><li>“ Goth” style – cross between Victorian and punk: black, fishnets, rivets, studs, lace, velvet, leather, vinyl, big boots, high heels, piercings, “extreme” makeup </li></ul> Joyce M Lanterman
    28. 28. Do geeks lack fashion sense? Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    29. 29. 5) Athletic? Or Fat and Sedentary? <ul><li>Dancing got 300 checks (29%) – belly dancing, folk dancing, historical dance, swing, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Martial arts got 272 (26%) checks – sword play, tai chi, aikido, etc. </li></ul>(1:55 – 3:47) Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Images:,, Joyce M Lanterman
    30. 30. Body Image <ul><li>Geek culture is more accepting of larger body types </li></ul><ul><li>Rejection of media standards - more realistic (though our media is just as unrealistic as mainstream—esp comic book heroines) </li></ul><ul><li>Sedentary hobbies: computer work, reading—but no more sedentary than TV! </li></ul><ul><li>Renaissance fashions, belly dancewear can accommodate larger figures–but body consciousness is not required </li></ul>Monster Tango: (:20 – 1:11) Joyce M Lanterman
    31. 31. Are Geeks Fat and Unathletic?,, Joyce M Lanterman
    32. 32. 6) Geeks are All Teenaged Boys <ul><li>Gender – 997 respondents gave a gender </li></ul><ul><ul><li>35% (352) Male </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>63% (645) Female </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1% (14) Other: transgender, androgynous, genderqueer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Age </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Range: 11-71 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Average Age: 32 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mode (age occurring most frequently): 25 </li></ul></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    33. 33. 7) Geeks are Immature <ul><li>Mainstream society decrees that certain kinds of fun are just for children – and sometimes for senior citizens </li></ul><ul><li>Make-believe (SF/F lit and film got 1673 checks) </li></ul><ul><li>Comics/Animation (Anime/Manga, and Comics got 1082 checks) </li></ul><ul><li>Dress-up (Creating and wearing costumes got 857 checks) </li></ul><ul><li>Toys/Games (Various kinds of games got 1667 checks) </li></ul><ul><li>Creativity for its own sake (not to earn money) </li></ul><ul><li>Learning things for fun (not just “useful” things) </li></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB, Joyce M Lanterman
    34. 34. So what does “maturity” really mean? <ul><li>Gainful employment? </li></ul><ul><li>802 (79%) respondents reported being currently employed </li></ul><ul><li>222 (21%) were unemployed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>10 disabled </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>8 retired </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>143 full-time students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leaving 61 (6%) actually unemployed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As of March 2009, US unemployment rate was 8.5% </li></ul></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    35. 35. So what does “maturity” really mean? <ul><li>377 (37%) respondents reported being married or in some kind of domestic partnership; 9 more report being engaged </li></ul><ul><li>Of those, 151 (39%) have children </li></ul><ul><li>Percentage of married people in the US in 2004: 46.5% (US Census Bureau) </li></ul>“ Settling down” and having a family? Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Joyce M Lanterman
    36. 36. Are Geeks Immature? Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    37. 37. 8) Geeks are Antisocial/Socially Inept <ul><li>It goes all the way back to grade school </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Didn’t “fit in” - “I always knew I was different.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interests outside the norm for age peers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Too” smart, bookish </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Often leads to bullying </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Psychological abuse, ostracism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drives us away from wanting to socialize </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leaves us with automatic assumption that we won’t be liked, so why bother? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Often, it takes conscious observation and effort to learn about social interaction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Given the impression that “normal” people “just know” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In effect, we are excluded from the common culture </li></ul></ul>Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    38. 38. <ul><li>Steve Silberman, Wired Magazine, Dec 2001: &quot;The Geek Syndrome&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Claims that geeks interbreeding in Silicon Valley are reinforcing whatever genetic traits cause autism </li></ul><ul><li>Apparently considers “geek” and “autistic” to be synonymous--says these “fascinations” all correlate with autism: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Computer games </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Star Trek </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fantasy novels </li></ul></ul>Geeks and Autism Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    39. 39. <ul><li>A very popular idea, it’s all over the internet—but with very little science to back it up! </li></ul><ul><li>Jan 2005: Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen (Cambridge University Autism Research Center) surveyed 378 math undergrads (vs control group of 414 other majors) for diagnosed autistic spectrum conditions in themselves and their families. Result: 9 times as much incidence of autism in math group (1.85% vs .24%). </li></ul><ul><li>Still does not address: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why Star Trek and fantasy novels? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What about non-math-oriented geeks? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Were the non-autistic math majors still showing autistic tendencies in terms of social skills? </li></ul></ul>Geeks and Autism Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    40. 40. <ul><li>Many geeks do display features common to the autistic spectrum: </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty perceiving body language/facial expressions </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty decoding social cues </li></ul><ul><li>Computer aptitude – hyper-focus </li></ul><ul><li>Being “different” leads to bullying </li></ul><ul><li>BUT…most are not autistic </li></ul>Geeks and Autism Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    41. 41. Geeks and Autism: Chicken/Egg? Do geeks have autistic tendencies, or do high-functioning autistics gravitate toward geekdom? Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    42. 42. Geek Social Networking <ul><li>Nobody networks like geeks! </li></ul><ul><li>Only 25 (2%) of respondents said they don’t use any online social networking sites </li></ul><ul><li>Even they use email </li></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Images: Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, OKCupid, Blogspot, MySpace, Plurk Button: Joyce M Lanterman
    43. 43. Geek Social Networking <ul><li>Posted to: </li></ul><ul><li>My Live Journal </li></ul><ul><li>5 LJ fan communities </li></ul><ul><li>My Facebook account </li></ul><ul><li>Other people’s LJs </li></ul><ul><li>Other LJ comms </li></ul><ul><li>Other people’s Facebook accounts </li></ul><ul><li>WoW guild forums </li></ul><ul><li>Plurk </li></ul><ul><li>PAX gaming con message board </li></ul><ul><li>Dragon*Con TV website and Podcast </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Personal websites </li></ul><ul><li>Sent via email </li></ul>Re -posted to: Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Images: Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, OKCupid, Blogspot, MySpace, Plurk Joyce M Lanterman
    44. 44. Pirates & Ninjas <ul><li>Introversion/extroversion is a scale, not absolute </li></ul><ul><li>Extroverts “recharge” by being around people </li></ul><ul><li>Introverts “recharge” by being alone </li></ul><ul><li>Mainstream considers extroversion the norm; introversion is an anti-social aberration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Quiet, shy people must be “drawn out of their shell” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considered a social duty: poor thing, you’re so shy, let me help you </li></ul></ul>Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    45. 45. Pirates & Ninjas <ul><li>Not all geeks are introverted, but geek culture allows for introversion. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s ok to: </li></ul><ul><li>Bring a book or a laptop to a party, sit in the corner and read or web surf </li></ul><ul><li>Party hop: only spend a short time in the party room, then leave to recharge </li></ul><ul><li>Lie down in a back room and nap </li></ul><ul><li>Refuse an invitation by saying, “I just don’t feel social right now” or “I’m feeling over-socialized.” </li></ul>Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    46. 46. Are geeks antisocial? Image:, Joyce M Lanterman
    47. 47. Our Stereotypes <ul><li>What do we call non-geeks? </li></ul><ul><li>Most common terms are “mainstream” and “mundane;” also “muggles” and “normals” </li></ul><ul><li>Write-in responses: boring, lemmings, sheep, herd, average, conformist, vanilla, the masses; a trend is evident here </li></ul><ul><li>Many feel using a special term is offensive – but use one anyway! </li></ul><ul><li>“ Superiority” form of defense </li></ul>Survey data not approved by GA State University IRB Images:, Joyce M Lanterman
    48. 48. Geeks as an Oppressed Minority <ul><li>Bennett’s characteristics of oppressed cultures: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Oppressed cultures are devalued </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Must conform or segregate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Inundated with reminders that [we] are different.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Superiority form of defense </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pressured to adapt to mainstream </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pluralistic - we can maintain our own culture, and also operate in dominant culture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ok to bash geeks in media – not considered hate speech </li></ul>Milton J. Bennet - Towards Ethnorelativism: a Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    49. 49. Generalizations I Can Make <ul><li>Primary Characteristics </li></ul><ul><li>Individualistic culture: personal expression trumps all </li></ul><ul><li>Reluctance to follow rules or be pigeon-holed into categories: herding cats </li></ul><ul><li>Passionately enthusiastic—obsessed? </li></ul><ul><li>Love learning, love to read, want to share knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t “fit in” to the mainstream, often from an early age; sense of being outsiders </li></ul>We are all individuals I’m not! Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    50. 50. Generalizations I Can Make <ul><li>Secondary Characteristics (Geekus Genericus) </li></ul><ul><li>Interest in speculative fiction – sci-fi, fantasy, horror, alternate history </li></ul><ul><li>Affinity for science, technology, and/or computers </li></ul><ul><li>Experience of being bullied in school </li></ul>Joyce M Lanterman
    51. 51. Implications <ul><li>Kids </li></ul><ul><li>Be aware of social issues they may face </li></ul><ul><li>Be open to their interests—don’t expect them to “grow out” of them </li></ul><ul><li>If possible, clue them in to larger geek culture—they are not alone! </li></ul><ul><li>Adults </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t micromanage; allow for independent work </li></ul><ul><li>Allow for multi-tasking – a websurfing geek is a happy geek </li></ul><ul><li>In group work, geeks may not be aware of standard social roles—good idea to assign a role </li></ul><ul><li>Social groups form around common interests; “drinks with the gang” may not appeal </li></ul>Image: Joyce M Lanterman
    52. 52. The Geek Shall Inherit… Image: Joyce M Lanterman