Issuu on Google+

CMNS6060

Learning Journal Activity 4

Accepting the unaccepted By Maria Tan It’s the rise of the token smart guy, coming to a computer screen near you. Nowadays the mass media is saturated with symbols of ‘geekdom’ through tech websites and magazines, sci-fi genres, comic books brought to life, and even infamous hackers and their ‘underground’ society are now frequently portrayed in films and reported in the news. “In a new media environment characterized by sharing and creative repurposing, some fan practices and texts once labeled as ‘geeky’ or ‘nerdy’ seem much less stigmatized” (Tocci 2007, p. 1).

According to Quail (2009), the nerd has been historically constructed as an awkward, math-savvy, social and sexual failure which Konzack (2006, p. 2) dubs as an “intellectual cultural movement”. Drawing from Castells’ (2004, p. 8) identity structures, it would seem that nerds and geeks have formed their own sub culture of ‘networked individualism’ out of resistance and project identities as a defense mechanism from the world that shunned them.

A subset of this intellectual cultural movement would be the ‘hacker’ culture, in the mass media sense of the term, which encompasses the illegal activity of ‘crackers’ and primarily denotes advanced ICT expertise.

One well known hacker within this culture is Eric Steven Raymond (ESR), a writer, IT professional and self professed nerd and geek. On his website <http://catb.org/~esr/>, ESR promotes his books, essays and viewpoints including a “HOWTOs”section on “Hacker History and Culture”.

Maria Tan

Page 1 of 3

8th March, 2009


CMNS6060

Learning Journal Activity 4

ESR employs many techniques as elements of persuasive ‘techie-oriented’ language in the form of logical arguments and even humour found in his “Rootless Root” eastern philosophical parody of hacker culture. An authoritative voice is prominent throughout his website, using pronoun language to address the audience as though in direct conversation. For example, on his “In Case You Care” page, ESR writes: “If you are a really serious geek, you probably want to know about my home hardware.”

In ESR’s guide on “How to Become a Hacker”, rules of the hacker culture are outlined for the audience. From the outset, the audience is introduced to ESR as the “editor of the Jargon File” and other “well known documents” implying authority, and even social proof by saying, “I often get email requests from enthusiastic network newbies”. The audience is also appealed to emotionally through the semiotic “geek” and “nerd” identifiers, as ESR asserts in “The Hacker/Nerd Connection: Being something of a social outcast helps you stay concentrated on the really important things, like thinking and hacking”. The reason why these identifiers connect with the inscribed reader is interpreted by Scott (n.d.) as a “deviant (or moral) career”:

Stigmatising labels are hugely powerful in shaping our sense of who we are in relation to significant others and to the wider society, and so a moral career can be one of the most defining influences upon self identity.

Although nerds and geeks have formed resistance and project identities in response to being social outcasts, they have also developed into legitimizing identities (e.g. Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak), whose complementary influence has become ever pervasive in modern society. Kendall (1999, p. 8) relates this to the ‘revenge of the nerds’: “Money confers status in the USA, and business and monetary success confer masculinity. Hence the ‘revenge’ of this previously non-hegemonic group. Maria Tan

Page 2 of 3

8th March, 2009


CMNS6060

Learning Journal Activity 4

References Castells, M 2004, The Power of Identity: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume II, 2nd Edn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. Kendall, L 1999, ‘Nerd Nation: Images of nerds in US popular culture’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 260-283. Konzack, L 2006, ‘Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter Culture’, FNG2006, 26-28 June 2006, Digital Games Research Association, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://www.vrmedialab.dk/~konzack/GeekCulture.pdf>. Quail, C 2009, ‘Hip To Be Square: Nerds in Media Culture’, FlowTV, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://flowtv.org/?p=2383>. Raymond, E 2008, How to Become a Hacker, Thyrsus Enterprises, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html>. Raymond, E 2008, The Hacker/Nerd Connection, Thyrsus Enterprises, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html#nerd_connection>. Raymond, E 2007, In Case You Care, Thyrsus Enterprises, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://www.catb.org/~esr/personal.html>. Raymond, E 2006, Hacker History and Culture, Thyrsus Enterprises, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/>. Raymond, E 2003, Rootless Root: The Unix Koans of Master Foo, Thyrsus Enterprises, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://catb.org/~esr/writings/unix-koans/>. Scott, S n.d., Labelling, Drift and the Deviant Career, University of Sussex, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/ss216/shysoc2deviance.html>. Tocci, J 2007, ‘The Well-Dressed Geek: Media Appropriation and Subcultural Style’, MIT5, 27-29 April 2007, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, viewed 8 March 2009, <http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/mit5/papers/Tocci.pdf>.

Maria Tan

Page 3 of 3

8th March, 2009


Accepting the unaccepted