Geek As Citizen: To Know

So I’ve taken it upon myself to ponder the question: what is the role of a geek as a citizen? We have our own unique skills and inclinations and the like, so just what is the role of people like us in a functional society? Note I say “functional” society – we’re working on the ideal here.

Last column I defined what geeks were in an “inclusive, definitional” sense for the purpose of my work and because I obsess over the subject. Here’s what defines geeks for me:

  • Passionate about a subject or subjects – on a personal level.
  • Apply that passion and knowledge – not always for monetary reward, but there are blurred lines.
  • Leverage tools and technology to apply that passion.
  • The person’s identity and social involvements are part of this strong interest.
  • Geeks are often part of a larger gestalt and culture, but not always – the “Geekonomy” and “Geek culture” don’t encompass all geeks.

Or “Geeks are personally passionate about a subject that they apply, and that knowledge and application is part of their identity and social scene.” Simple, but I kind of like my bullet points.

So we are reasonably definable people, so where do we fit into a functioning (again note I’m qualifying here) society?

One of the major roles of the Geek As Citizen is To Know.

We are passionate about our knowledge and our subjects. We are intimate with them on a level few are. We possess knowledge, deeply and personally, and can access it with the snap of a finger or the asking of a trivia question.

We’re also not exactly concerned with that knowledge being “useful” or “popular” or whatever. We like it because we like it and because we care. That’s it. We’re not going to amputate parts of our souls just because something isn’t currently “in” (and as many of us know what is anathema today is popular tomorrow”

Therefore, I’d say one of our major social roles simply is To Know Things. We’re giant libraries of enthusiasm and information, that as trivial as it may seem, may be useful at some time in the future. Because we care and retain, we should appreciate what we do as somewhat disjointed but passionate human libraries and references.

I’m not talking some Farenheit 451 thing here – just the fact that it is valuable to have people that know stuff and retain information for the love of it. Because when you have that knowledge several things happen:

Retention: Knowledge retained is knowledge preserved (OK, I did get a bit F451 there but it’s not anything dramatic). People who value knowledge personally will work to retain that knowledge. We may keep alive the love of an obscure band, hold old ‘zones, etc. Because of this activity that knowledge is there for others to use.

Propigation: Because we retain knowledge, it can be passed on – personally. Knowledge retained (or knowledge of knowledge) means it can be spread and passed on. In turn, this helps get knowledge out there. This is especially important in the case of vital knowledge, such as scientific facts.

Revival: Because we have all this information, we can also be there to revive ideas, concepts, media, bands, etc. Since we hold to it due to passion, and communicate it driven by such, we can also bring it roaring back to life. One just has to look at the returns of TV series, or films, or other such revivals to see what can be done.

That’s we geeks. Nodes of passionately retained information ready to go.

So in summary: Being inclined to know and dive deep into certain things, I think geeks can function (and in a way do functions) as sources of knowledge that hold, propagate, and even revive interest in that knowledge. Not that we won’t shut up half the time anyway because we love what we do . . .

– Steven Savage