Thursday, August 8, 2013

YouTube's Geek Week (A Reflection)

The commercials are making their rounds and YouTube's front page is plastered with geekism. I know Geek Week on YouTube started on Sunday, but let me just rehash the constant excuse of "I'm on VACATION!" Not that I'm concerned that my few fans are waiting with bated breath for me to comment. I mean, who is this for? Me and maybe others who are going through this? Or maybe someone looking for a laugh. I like laughs.

I've found, though, that I've become incredibly reflective about the different definitions of geek and nerd out there. I think my number one issue has been this requirement that Math and Science are immediately part of these stereotypes.

Posted by George Takai, now available as a T-Shirt.
From the bottom of my heart, I can say with all certainty that Math and Me are not on the best of terms. I can comprehend through per-Calculus, but I struggled the whole way. I put in a lot of effort and really worked hard. Due to it being the bane of my academic existence, I try to stay as far away from Math when I can, unless it's part of a funny joke that is linked to something I like or something I can link to reading or writing. For example, Pi (Apple-Pi, etc.).

On the other hand, I was kind of into Science. I wasn't very good at Chemistry, but at Biology I was a wiz. I was the kid who actually dissected the fetal pig in my group and went for the extra credit of a perfect brain extraction. I was granted with the ultimate prize of having the best brain extraction in all the sections and I was honored by having it added to the teacher's jar of perfect brains! But once again, thanks to Math, I couldn't pursue my passion for Marine Biology. I had an overly difficult Calculus teacher and all the Math involved in college level Chemistry did me in. I would, though, just like to add that I took the Marine Ecology class offered by my college and I aced it with flying colors. Even yesterday, at the beach, I had to handle all the hook extractions from the things that were caught from the sea. Like a baby eel and this froggish mudfish. I did, though, fall out a great deal with Science due to the teachers involved and I fell smack-dab in the middle of Philosophy.

So I don't really consider myself a Math/Science geek or nerd. I have found I might still have a high interest in Science, but it's not my passion. That always throws me off with these definitions. So when I saw the commercial, I couldn't not take a moment to reflect on my own status. The journey I have been on this summer has been incredible and I'm working on a reflective entry as I write this RIGHT NOW!!! Yes. . . double-wielding keyboards! On to the commercial:

The voiceover in the video says: "What does it mean to be a geek? We're the biggest fans, that's true. And we're curious about the world. We like to make things, invent things, share things. We question what's possible. And when we find people who care as much as we do, well, that's when things get interesting."

"What does it mean to be a geek?" The first line in and of itself is a loaded question. And the strange thing is, it assumes that they have answered it succinctly. What does it mean? For my review of this, see my very first entry explaining my journey.

Then the commercial goes on to say that geeks are the "biggest fans." I can't argue that, except what about the geeks who never feel like they're the biggest fans? I mean, I don't know if I can label myself as the biggest fan of any one specific thing. Does it mean generically? Like. . .I am a big fan of books? Or I am a big fan of tabletop games? And what about my husband? I mean, he is probably the biggest fan of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 I've ever met, but is he considered the biggest fan? He doesn't build his own robots. He doesn't go to the conventions. So where does he land? Granted, he does have a blog and has been working on a project with it for over 10 years, but he's not a FanBoy, he's just an incredibly huge and well-immersed fan of MST3K. Take it a step further and ask yourself, "Are sports fans geeks?" Because, in all honesty, I have seen sports fans that can top the biggest geeks as Comic-Con (granted I am from Wisconsin, home of the Packers. . .). Weren't the jocks always the enemies of the nerds in the movies? Already, sweeping generalizations to make everyone feel included are occurring in this rally to embrace Geek Week on YouTube.

I'll accept that geeks are curious about the world. I think right here is where I fit in the strongest.  I am looking for the connections that will make my web of interconnectedness ever stronger. I love to travel to learn about how the world works and the only reason I ever turn on a reality TV show is to try to understand the human condition as viewed through the lens of a corrupt social view. I go geocaching because I want to see the world around me and embrace all of it. Ah, but there is the rub again. I thought geeks didn't like being outdoors unless they were reveling in a Renaissance Faire? I mean, my husband and Friend Jim would rather never leave the comfort of their computer chairs. Either way, this line about being curious is perfectly valid and I'm just talking in circles.

"We like to make things, invent things, share things." This is where I think it gets pretty dicey. There is no conjunction. Does it mean we have to do all three of these things? Do we just do at least one, but potentially all three? Sure, I like to make things. I like to make blogs and write and develop lessons. I like to cook and develop RPG characters that I never get to play with. I like to create my little personalized characters on Sims and WoW. Do I invent things? Well. . . hmmm. . . no. . . do all nerds invent things? Well. . . what do you mean by invent? Does it have to be like Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory? Little robots or space toilets? Or can it be as simple as a recipe? Here is where it falls too heavily back on the origins of the term geek and nerd. What I cannot debate, though, is that geeks and nerds do love the share things. But, hey, don't non-geek/nerds, too? Not something specific to geek-nerddom, but its at least true.

"We question what's possible." Can't debate this, either. It's true. No matter what type of geek you are, it is true. But is this something specific only to geeks? If so, then all 55 of my students are geeks, because they question the hell outta me! I think this falls into the category of just another sweeping generalization.

When we do get together, though, crazy things do happen. When I'm just gaming with my kids at school, it's awesome and neat. But when I get together with Friend Jim and Ray. . . it is AWESOME! It takes things to a whole new level. When I'm into my film or television focus or any of that, it is crazy awesome when Ray is on board and we just spend hours discussing the finer points of yadda yadda yadda. So yeah. . . the point of Geek Week on YouTube does invite that idea that we're just a bunch of geeks getting together online and sharing all these things to have the most ultimate of geekgasms!

Yet, the entire commercial is so sweeping in its generalizations, it's meant to be inviting to everyone. That's why it was aired on television instead of simply moving through the geek cultural outlets. The point of the whole thing was to get everyone over to YouTube to watch these things, whether they are someone who subscribes to geekdom or not. Like I've said above, how do you define geek? Are we not all geeks in some way or another? My husband argues absolutely not, but is maybe that what geek culture is doing? Spreading through all the channels of all the different cultural lifestyles, but the origins of geekdom are still holding fast and almost rebelling against this modern need to embrace all who do these things? Or are these things that are only truly understood by those who are really geeks?

I have to reflect and reflect I did. The commercial, while a rally cry of sorts, is really just another attempt to commercialize geekdom. Sure the images reinforce certain things, but they also attempt to negate things that maybe don't need to be negated. I'll leave you with a final thought. . . is a Ninja Warrior really just a jock geek? The Starbursts of the geek world!

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