Hobby As Language

When we have a particular passion, be it for sports figures or media properties or specific foods, we learn a lot.  Our "fandom education" may include statistics or instructions or timelines, but learning those things means that we need to have the proper words, terms, and ideas to express and understand them.  Our geekery, our fandoms, require us, in a way, to learn a new language.

Soon these languages we learn become part of our lives, our friendships, and our activities.  We are probably not aware of it in many cases, just the way a good craftsman's tools feel a part of their body, or a musician finds themselves automatically learning music.  We have this part of us, perhaps a part that was a radical change/addition to who we are, and quickly we loose direct awareness of it.

The fact that our hobbies have a language all their own fascinates me.  It fascinates me partially because of it's obscurity – we become easy to it so quickly, I wonder what we're missing.  I also realize it's a powerful tool we have, and wonder what it means for us as professional geeks, fans, otaku, and more.

We're equipped with concepts, words, ideas that connect us with our passions – and that few others experience, understand, or even know of.  So how do we put them to use professionally?

  • It gives us a language to share with people of similar interests.  Many is the time I've found a common enthusiasm, book, or passion let me communicate better with others.
  • It gives us the ability to think differently – which can be valuable for solving problems.  RPG players are used to thinking in statistics and numbers and breakdowns.  Cooking enthusiasts know spice and mix and visceral feelings.  You see the world differently- that may mean you see solutions others can't.
  • It gives us the opportunity to reuse terms and ideas in "non-fandom situations."  Ever find you lack the right word or term?  Introduce one from your hobbyist experiences that fits – and you have a tool you and at least some others can relate to.
  • It gives us the tools to understand parts of the culture and even economy others may not.  Anyone who's an enthusiast for any technology or culture knows what that's like – we have concepts and ideas and terms to communicate and analyze that others do not.

Ask yourself about your fandom/hobby/geekiness languages and what opportunities they give you.  You may be surprised.

Steven Savage

ADDENDUM: For myself, I'd say video games gave me a huge boost in the "fandom language" format.  From being able to bond over them to understanding the tech industry, or being able to introduce new concepts (I'm fond of "nerfing"), it's been quite helpful.