Home Open Thread: Mainstream Media Discovers Geekery, Is This a Good Thing?

Open Thread: Mainstream Media Discovers Geekery, Is This a Good Thing?

Facebook’s getting its own movie, Ashton Kutcher is the social web’s unpaid spokesman and now NBC is launching a show dedicated to mobile apps.

What’s the world coming to? Call me old fashioned, but where I come from, a geek is a geek and a mainstream actor with an iPhone is still just a mainstream actor with an iPhone. The Oprahtization of technology is at least a bit demeaning, from my point of view. Sure, this trend brings exposure to our heroic exploits, but it’s often done through stereotypes about geeks and an air of naïveté about how technology really works. What do you think? Am I being a curmudgeon? Is all this mainstream-tech integration really a good thing?

Granted, we all have to discover technology at some point. None of us were born nerds. But there’s a certain je ne sais quoi that is unique to geeks: a melange of smarts, social pickiness, a willingness to be different, insatiable curiosity, a desire to learn and create new and amazing things, and frequently, a very necessary shell to protect oneself from the rejections of the larger world around us. As a people accustomed to being ostracized for speaking in terms too technical, having a bizarre sense of humor or caring more about bandwidth than baseball, we have generally existed far outside the cool kids’ club.

Not to frame my entire argument in a high school analogy, but we have mostly been useful for one thing: Doing other people’s homework. When they – the non-technical of this world – want an application, device, website or feature, we built it and teach them how to use it. This has been the geek’s role for eons: Doing the jocks’ dirty work and then skipping prom. Can you imagine Einstein hobnobbing with Marlene Deitrich? Or a young Steve Jobs on an early ’80s red carpet with a young Harrison Ford? Yet we are seeing more and more crossover between mainstream media and our little world of technology to the point that you can’t tell the tech from the tinsel.

Perhaps it’s just disconcerting to see those two worlds meshing for the first time. Perhaps all my angst is simply discomfort. Yet when I see and hear innovators and geeks referred to as ugly, graceless basement-dwellers, even in jest, by mainstream talking heads, it still gets to me.

But what gets to me more is the new set of faux geeks – folks who know just enough about tech to send a misspelled Twitter update from their mobiles but who thrive on the attention and revenue they gain from this scene. They wouldn’t know an API from a IP; the red carpet is more likely their natural habitat; yet they incessantly appear in blog posts, pictures and videos until the real geeks don’t even remember how they got there. It happens on a small scale (every tech scene has its skill-free new media douchebag), and it’s starting to happen on a larger scale, as well (why is Olivia Munn a geek, again?).

Call me bitter, call me jealous, call me cynical – but let me know what you think, too. Some of our friends on Twitter told us they didn’t like mainstream media’s encroachment onto geek territory, but others who responded to our query see this exposure as a good thing, and we want to hear this point of view, as well. After all, I was excited the first time I heard Twitter mentioned in a news report, too.

Give us your opinions in the comments, and don’t hold back! We love a good, long-winded discourse at ReadWriteWeb.

Note: Lest you throw stones at the writer for not being geeky enough herself, she was building LANs and playing the first version of King’s Quest when you were still in diapers.

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