But what is a geek, in fact? What does it look like, how does it work? And when we put several geeks together, what kind of culture does it create? And what kind of society is needed to create geeks?
What follows is my attempt to define and characterize the phenomenon. Followed by a small history of the term “geek”.
Of course, when one describes a phenomenon to which one belongs, which is in full evolution, it is difficult to give a definitive definition. But that’s not necessarily the goal either. The idea is rather: if we try to understand the world, we try to understand each other too. So if I’m a geek, what am I?
This definition submitted to a number of people, and they seemed to be on the road. So I submit it more widely: what do you think?
Definition of geek culture
Geek culture is composed of passionate and creative people organized into communities around the following areas:
- Gaming: video, society, role, life size, gamification, etc.
- Fantasy: science fiction, fantasy, comics, food & anime, tales & legends, etc.
- Science & Technology: scientific theories, computer science, programming; willing to understand the workings of things and hackers, etc.
Geek culture lives in symbiosis with a capitalist society of entertainment, technology and consumption. Geek culture is both at the margins and at the center of this society, even for clothing. Click here for checking cool hoodies geeky collection.
Entertainment and culture
The geek sometimes seek to escape entertainment. At least that’s the impression he gives, or how we talk about it. Yet the game, the imaginary and the sciences are in fact profoundly constitutive of the human being.
Since the world is a world, people seek to understand it to find their place, to improve it so that this place is better, and it is done in particular by telling stories and playing.
By entertaining oneself to escape the real, the geeks seek and develop another perspective on reality. This tension is perhaps the most visible in science fiction, where many ethical themes are explored in an entertaining and captivating format.
How does geek took over popularity?
The once marginalized geek culture (minority and ridiculed, see the historical evolution of the term “geek” below) now tends to take a central place in society and merge with “pop culture”.
As proof, the explosion of the market of the elements concerned (imaginary, games, technology), and their side more and more “chic”. To be convinced, just look at the top-10 most viewed films every year.
A fundamental trait of geek culture may be that participants are active and creative rather than passive. This is seen in the great creativity of geeks: programming, fan art, stories and scenarii, etc. The geek wants to contribute. And guarantee the right to do it – Creative-Commons was created by geeks.
What is the story behind the “geek” word?
The origin of the word “geek” would be in the Middle German geck (crazy, mischievous) and in Dutch gek (crazy, silly). There may be a link also with the word patois of North and East of France “gicque” which designates the carnival madman.
“Geek” is used in the US first to talk about quirky people who do not fit into society. From the 60s, with the arrival of calculators and computers, the term is used in a pejorative way for the mathematicians who are not interested in the other activities of their comrades, and more broadly thereafter for any domain that does not interest most people.
Recently, the word has evolved to affectionately and even jealousy describe an expert in a field. One of the reasons for this development would be the transition from a manual labor society to a knowledge society. In this turning point, geeks move from a position of weakness and marginality to a position of influence.
The name has been carried to the highest levels of influence and economic success by the founders of computer services such as Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.