Geek As Citizen: What Is A Geek?

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be exploring the role of geeks as citizen. What is our place in a functional society? Where do we belong? Where are we needed? I think a lot of us kind of have an idea, but it’s worth exploring in an age where, almost accidentally, we kind of created modern society and to a lesser extent run it.

I’m not sure we intended to do this, but there you go. Me, I’d want better environmental policies and a reduction in stupid reality shows. But that’s for another time.

In order to actually ask “what is the ideal role of a citizen geek” we kind of have to define geek. I’ve taken a stab at it – many have taken a stab at it – and doubtlessly we’ll be arguing about it for years to come. But I’m going to make an effort (again) to try and do it at least to solidify my recent insights and give us a working theory.

Let me note that my definition is designed to be descriptive and not exclusionary.  I have no interest in promoting geek exclusion or exclusivity, there’s enough “not geek enough” garbage out there.  Instead I’m interested in it as a kind of demographic description – pretty much a case of “you are one if you think you’re one and identify as one.”

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If The Future Is Cultural Power . . .

This article on the future of China as a superpower intrigued me, mostly for asking the question of what kind of superpower China could be.  As I analyzed it, I ultimately figured power has to be cultural on one level or another – simply using force of any form is limited and limiting, as well as exhausting and compromising.  So my rough figuring was China will have more power the more it is able to exert positive cultural influence.

Then I began thinking about the world.  Where US films are exported everywhere.  Where anime is a giant cultural export for Japan.  Where India has taken the musical to amazing heights.  Where Gangnam style has raised awareness of Korean music, and probably K-pop as a whole.

The US was also good at leveraging export technologies and economic and political power post WWII.  Anime would not have been nearly as popular in the US without fansubs, streaming, and cheaper delivery technology.  India’s media popularity has gone slow-burn, but seems to be helped by things like Netflix and hip cultural awareness like the Colbert Show.  Gangnam style wouldn’t even be KNOWN without Youtube.

Cultural power is something that China will want and need – and that means media and communications technologies, shows and comics, a real media/world presence.

So that makes me wonder what’s next for China.  Will it try to build a culture engine for commercial, economic, and cultural power?  Will one evolve or be allowed to evolve?  Is it even being thought of?

What will their geeks and geekonomy be like if they seek superpower status and cultural influence in the world?

I’m not sure I have answers.  OK I’m pretty sure I don’t, but it’s going to be interesting to see the Chinese geekonomy and how it works – and evolves – and connects it to the world.  You have to open up to have influence . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at



Geekonomy, Technology, Homosexuality, Culture, and Apple

This may be one of my longest post names.

Last week I mentioned I was curious about Tim Cook's appointment as Apple's CEO and the fact he was gay, though it was a subject he didn't talk about (and frankly there's no reason he should or have to).  For me he's a reliable, wonkish, even-handed appointment who's good for a temporary CEO as Apple deals with the change of Jobs – but may have the chance to set a vision and go long term (his stock options hint at that).

As Cook was outed by Gawker (and 'Out' magazine listed him as the most powerful gay person in the world), I'm concerned that his sexual preference might become a Geekonomic/Geek culture issue due to some other trends I want to discuss.  Thus I consider this relevant to the blog, but at the same time feel a bit invasive.

That's a long-form way of kind of apologizing to Mr. Cook if against the odds he reads this or hears about this.

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