Finally, another Geek 501 post! The idea here is to give some thoughts on geek culture, what it is to be a geek, and things geeks love. We’ve talked before a few times about Geeks and Consumerism. The conclusion was, geeks “consume” media and culture and cultural artifacts, but that this does not have to mean in a materialistic way: geeks are often cool with subscription services, libraries, and other ways to get access to the culture they love.
I also started Geek 501 by talking about Geeks and Sharing, about how geeks love to share the things they love – with other fans, with non-fans, and occasionally, with anyone who will listen! In some ways, this post is a continuation of this idea. Geeks consume media, geeks share it with their friends and family… but at some point, they seem to move beyond that. At some point, all the ideas of Web 2.0, of contributing and interacting and creating, kick in too. More than consuming: participating, remixing, reviewing and recommending.
The title of the post comes from a theme party we went to in college, where you had to do something creative to get a snack or drink. There was sidewalk chalk, paper, singing, all kinds of things. Apparently the phrase has stuck with me all this time, as the declarative statement that it is. You must create! So follow on for some of my ideas on how geeks create.
What We Create
Maybe it’s a bit too meta for me, on a geek culture blog, to be talking about how geeks create. After all, one of the very common and simple ways a geek begins to create and give back in general. Where sharing with the people around you isn’t quite enough, you start sharing with anyone who will listen, or read. I say listen because I find there are a whole lot of people creating Podcasts or YouTube videos as well.
So what sorts of things are people putting out there and sharing? TV and movie and comic and book reviews. Game walkthroughs and strategy. Wikis and Wikias. I’ve recently found a lot of Warmachine battle reports, construction guides, and painting sharing. Fanart and fan-fiction. Parody or Anime music videos. Thoughts and reactions. Speculation and questions. For a great example of a variety of these sorts of things, I love the roundup each week on The Speech Bubble by @GothamRogue.
Then there are other sorts of things people create or do. One of the main things that comes to mind is Cosplay. More than just enjoying a character or an aesthetic, with Cosplay you are joining in, are creating and being a part of it. There are a growing number of Zombie walks and events, for instance, where people often get some really creative zombie makeup going on! And even without doing too much with that, just doing something like that, participating, making it real, is awesome.
One of my favorite examples of Cosplay combined with an aesthetic was the Steampunk Professor Xavier (and other X-Men) from Dragon Con 2010. Another thing that has just stuck with me, I guess!
Downside to Participation
Is there a problem with geeks joining in, creating and adding to the culture? I know we often find ourselves in a tension between wanting to keep up with the things the culture contains – the shows, movies, comics, what have you – and wanting to keep up with what others say about it, like especially on other blogs!
But it’s more than just not having time for everything that is a problem. Geeks participating and joining in has economic and other impacts. When geeks are creating the video game strategy guides, for instance, I’m sure it’s much harder to sell the physical ones that used to be far more common. I know we have hung on to our old ones, but haven’t added too many in recent years to the collection!
And then, what about critics and reviewers? I feel that we are much more critical of the critics now, the paid, full-time critics. When I can go online for free and add my thoughts about anything in the world I want to… how special is it for someone to do so in a paid capacity? They have to add value, have to do it better than I do it. When you’re talking about writing an opinion piece better than someone else… that can be hard to do!
And then, thinking of things like costumes and cosplay, there really are people that do this for fun (or at least not for pay) who are phenomenally good at it – and there have been some reality shows lately to showcase this, like Heroes of Cosplay and Face Off. When you can create some of those things… it could be upsetting to not have a job doing it!
There’s often talk and concerns about whether there are “gateway” items to being a geek. Or questions about the difference between “geeks” and “nerds.” Does “creating” like I talk about here make you a geek or not? Does it make you a geek instead of a nerd?
I would say no on both counts. I would say that this is not a cause of being a geek, but an effect. Maybe it’s always been an element, but especially with Web 2.0 it’s all so much more visible today than it’s ever been before. I would say that this is why it seems like there are so many more geeks today than in the past – we’re out there creating, interacting, and being seen and noticed and finding each other.
Maybe it all comes back to Fandom – to the love of these things, and then an increasing activity around it. A love of the wider universe, of the things and stories and creations of them. There’s so much to geek out about – and we do, and it’s great.