Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Nerd Ideolgy

Okay in my tech thought bag I said that while I hated the idea of always on DRM I could understand where Microsoft is coming from. In retrospect I think I was a little unclear. I think always DRM is a stupid stupid idea, but I can forgive Microsoft and most of corporate America for having stupid stupid ideas because in the past 5 years they had to deal with something unprecedented.  Internet culture. By the way I said having stupid ideas I didn't say implementing stupid ideas. Yeah EA's not getting off the hook.

Anyway back to my point Web 2.0 has created circumstances where technology companies and Hollywood have to pay attention to a sub-culture. One they don't entirely unders... wait did I say unprecedented.

Okay not exactly. But with internet culture it happened in a different way. Being a blogger the grand expert on all things internet. Shut up I am.  I'd thought I take a look at it.

Culture, Individualism, Community and Identity

First off though let's talk about the mirror stage. Yeah I talked about this more generally when I had my post-Beware the Gonzo quasi-mental breakdown and was pissing and moaning about nerd in high school.  But that was just a weird rant about individualism. Here I will talk about it academically. That said it took me three weeks and four really pretentious essays to get this for my film class.

When searching for identity we use the people and culture around us to help us better understand ourselves  by searching for what's similar. Or rather, I know what the abstract concept of being American is and identify as American not because I am American, but because my entire life I've been able to observe other Americans and figure out that being American means X, as well as go,"Yeah sounds about right.". Our similarities as Americans form the American "cultural identity." or rather ideology.

Now I have to warn you that I'm talking about ideology in the anthropological sense. Not the political sense, though the two aren't mutually exclusive. Let me explain. Ideology is the shared experience, outlook, and connotations of a culture.  Think about it like this.  England has a state church. Sure it doesn't have all the same power. But Americans find that weird. Why because culturally since infancy we've been feed the idea of separation of church and state.

And that is how community is formed. A group of people who share a similar ideology.  But here is the thing. An individual can have more than one ideology. To not piss anybody off all I'll go with my own subculture. I'm black.  Do you know how many things mainstream America doesn't get about black ideology.  A loooooooooot!
That said as a black guy I still consider myself a part of Mainstream American culture. One day I'll talk about black separatism, but that is another essay. My point is that sometimes I need to compartmentalize my identity. Sometimes I'm not speaking as an American, but as an African-American. Because in some instances I identify more with the ideology of African-Americans more than America as a whole. And that's just one compartment. What about my self-identification as a punk, a nerd, a MSU grad, a Michigander a journalism grad, a blogger, a Gen Yer, a male. And what happenens when I mix and match those so I get a whole new idiolgy. A Michigan Gen Yer. You get the point.

Now I feel I have to explain idology a little better. It can become a cultural language. Often times when I want to express myself I don't do it by speaking plainly. I invoke an image, or event or whatever has contextual connotations.  For instance when I did that crack at black seperatism I could have made a reference to Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey and my African American audience and some of my American audience would in theory still know what I was talking about, but what if you were reading this from Japan? And that's just a historical reference. We aren't getting into folklore, music, fashion, politics, and all the other stuff that makes up an ideological base..

The Problem of Nerd
Remember what I said about gaining a self identity though a cultural identity. What happens when that is hard? What happens when you only have two friends who know what the hell Magic the Gathering is. You become a great big pit of self-loathing because you think of yourself as a weirdo. And everybody calling you a weirdo doesn't help. And ironically the shared experience of that insecurity has become one of the cores of nerd ideology. Oh yeah I remember getting picked on in high school for liking thing X.

Because everybody had something that they liked or an aspect of themselves that made them different.Which leads me to.

The George McFly Moment
For a self-demostrative example of ideology I'm going to talk about Back to the Future, which is considered a 30 year old classic, in American, but especially nerd culture so I can assume Americans and nerds reading this have some clue what I am talking about. That said, back to our regularly scheduled programing.

Here is the thing. The guy mainstream audiences are suppose to identify with Back to The Future. Is Marty McFly. He is the hero after all. But in retrospect I realize George McFly's pre and post time travel identities mirrored the nerd experience, albeit exaggerated. .

Okay. Get this. In the beginning of the movie Papa McFly is a wimp? Why because in his head he deserves it. Why? Because he had no one around that he could identify with except biff. And Biff is an asshole. Moreover George sees Biff as the cultural ideal. Yeah. How messed up is that? George is nothing like him of course.  As such George has to see himself as the cheap off brand Biff. Ergghhhh!!!!

Now the movie paints the golden point where George McFly A becomes cool awesome McFly B as the moment when he saves Marty's mom from rape. Because drama.

But no. It was actually way back in the cafeteria. When someguy he only knew for a couple days told him that this thing he liked doing that incidentally made him feel like an outcast, was kind of cool.

George was a Sci-fi nerd. It was part of his identity but he felt it was a negitive because nobody around him was able to say. "Dude, thinking up cool new worlds and being able to articulate all that in written language is cool."

Rather than taking up the whole of his ideology from Biff he could take some of it from Marty who thinks sci-fi is kind of awesome growing up as Egor to a mad scientist.

George was able to then say to himself, you know what. I am not weird. This thing I like doesn't make me a loser. In fact no. I am not a loser. Shut the hell up Biff.   How did that work out. Kind of awesome... though it is still kind of creepy that Marty blinked his original dad out of existence.

Okay what was my point. George mirrors part of the nerd shared experience and as such part of it's ideology. The moment where through a college club, or the internet, or the power of friendship nerds found out that there were other people into what they previously thought made them weird.  And realized. Everybody is weird. Which is why nerd culture and internet culture in particular has no shame... to a point.

Because shame is a tool used by a society or community to enforce sociological norms. The same sociological norms that made them feel like crap in high school. Yeah see at least when the internet isn't being all hypocritical, because sometimes it is, it views enforcing sociological norms through shame as bad. Put simply let your freak flag fly.

Web 2.0
Okay when originally conceived this article I was going to spend most of it talking about web 2.0 but I drifted. So I am just going give a brief overview seeing as this is stuff you should already know anyway especially as seeing as this blog is part of Web 2.0.

Around the mid 2000's a series of services, features, user interfaces and websites started to change how people experienced the internet. Rather than John Smith just sort of getting information more and more John Smith could express what he thought about that information. The internet was becoming democratized.

Again this article was going to be about that but yeah.

Anyway,  with all of this new democracy it became more and more easily apparent to figure out what the internet was thinking. And that is valuable. When it comes to devoloping products there is a whole lot of guess work and investors hate guesswork.

Here is the problem though internet culture developed out of nerd culture and nerd culture has an ideology. Yeah the internet is just a tool but when 80 percent of the people expressing themselves on that tool have an ideological reference base unknown to people who have to deal with them and may or may not have a contempt for them we get Green Lantern.

No not the surprisingly cool animated series. The movie. How do you screw up space cops! There is so much you can do with that. It's literally about a guy who can make whatever he can imagine. So you know, imagine.  Go crazy.  And damn 5 minutes ago I just found out that show and Young Justice have been canceled.

And don't get me started on Last Airbender.

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