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American Nerd

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 240

Adam Jenkins writes "This book seemed to have potential, particularly since the image of nerds has changed in recent times. Once objects of derision and schoolyard bullying, nerds are now acknowledged as having a place in society. The Lord of the Rings became a multi-million dollar movie trilogy, the internet is now used by an incredible number of people, and computer games are no longer seen as being 'just for kids.' Around the years of the dot-com boom, successful nerds were driving Ferraris and going to cool parties. So it's not so surprising that the definition of a nerd has changed over time, nor that a society which has generally become better at accepting people who are different, has accepted nerds." Read below for the rest of Adam's review.As is clear from the title, American Nerd sets out to concentrate on the American nerd, and to define what a nerd is. As with a lot of social labels, it's not so easily defined. Nugent defines two categories of nerd; those who are intellectual and socially awkward in a machine-like way, and also people who are simply socially excluded. We learn that the word 'nerd' first started being used in America around the 1960s, but as well as the more recent 'geek', there have also been words like 'boffin' and 'greasy grind' which are similar in meaning. The book is divided into three sections, with the history of the nerd, a more detailed section called "Among the Nerds", and a shorter section "My Credentials". The latter section expands on the glimpses into Nugent's life through the rest of the book, like the case study in the second part about Nugent's friend from the Ghetto of Amherst and includes another case study, about another of his childhood friends.

The author spent some his school years being picked on as a nerd and at the start he discloses that consequently his journalistic objectivity is compromised. Later in the book, he tells us that he stopped being a nerd in his teens. As part of this disclaimer, Nugent states that he empathizes with nerds and anti-nerds alike, and really, who better to do that than an ex-nerd? He seems to have done some good research for the book, including attending the Third Annual Anime Los Angeles Convention, SCA events like Estrella War in Arizona, and talking with Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts, who wrote the first nerd sketch for Saturday Night Live.

The publishers claim this is the first comprehensive examination of nerds, and it's certainly a fine study of the history to date. No doubt there are good related academic papers in the fields of psychology and sociology, and the books of Professor Sherry Turkle (mentioned in this book) sound interesting, but American Nerd is not only more accessible, but it is specifically about nerds. I've read a couple of books which have touched upon nerd culture, but they have mostly concentrated on other topics; usually the stories of early Silicon Valley pioneers and their companies. Nugent's book covers not only the more usual topics like how nerds are treated at school and what a nerd is, but also science fiction fan clubs and conventions, computer gamers, "fake nerds", Japanese pop culture and parallels between race discrimination and nerds. I was a little surprised that some nerd subcultures weren't included, like those around computer bulletin board systems, or tabletop gaming and live action roleplaying. There were lots of analogies and examples from not only movies like Blade Runner, Rain Man and The Nutty Professor, but also classic literature, like Pride and Prejudice, and Frankenstein. Of more current works, there's mention of Beauty and the Geek and The Big Bang Theory, and some interesting information about the production of Freaks and Geeks.

I'm not sure whether the book would appeal only to nerds or ex-nerds. I think the subject material is probably broad enough that it would have a greater appeal. Parts of the book are quite funny like the story about a Super Smash Bros. Melee competition at a Major League Gaming tournament, and the examples of strange vocabulary adopted by gamers. There are also stories about Ben and his interactions with his friend's crazy Mormon Mum. Toward the end of the book, he described getting drunk with popular kids at age 13 in Petrozavodsk, Russia and deciding he didn't want to be a nerd anymore. There was a lot that I learned from this book, not just the history of nerds, but also something of modern subcultures like yaoi, otaku and SCA, as well as some American specific things like RPIs Bachelor journal and high school debating. Though there's some parallels drawn in this book between the UK and the US in the coverage of "muscular Christianity" around the late 19th century, I am sure that currently nerds in the UK are quite different to those in the US, and I did wonder generally just how nerds in other countries are similar and different to the American variety.

This is an intelligent and thought-provoking book, which also manages to be entertaining. Whether you're a nerd or not, you will find parts of the book that remind you of some of your own experiences and make you appreciate how much richer our society is for having nerds!

You can purchase American Nerd: The Story of My People from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Nerds will be nerds (1)

Djatha (848102) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817847)

Nerds will be nerds and they don't care about their image, the outside world, or those girl thingies everyone is always talking about.

Seriously, I'm a happy nerd the way I am. Who are these people trying to improve the image of the nerd? Geeks afraid of being called a nerd maybe?

Revenge of the Nerds... (2, Interesting)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817995)

Had probably the best definition of both a nerd and a geek.

"A Nerd is someone who is obsessed with computers and technology. A Geek is someone who is obsessed with computers and technology... and LIKES IT THAT WAY."

I'm a geek. ;)

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (5, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818133)

Wrong way around.

Geek = Nerd with social skills, and not so much knowledge of the TCP/IP stack.

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (1, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818307)

I disagree. a Geek may be an intellectual master of his field. But they are clueless outside of that field, including in social interaction. A nerd has a broader field of interest and expertise. What the two have in common is that we are both smart and share a common aspect of "freak" culture.

I am a nerd, I am equally at home behind a computer screen, under a car with a wrench, in a shop making furniture or in the arms of my lovable little goth chick.

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (3, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818507)

No, you're pretty backwards (at least for the East Coast). Geeks have interests, but are generally fairly socially savvy and competent. You've got music geeks, art geeks, etc.

Nerds are the MIT-esque pocket-protector types.

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (1, Funny)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819451)

I don't believe you've touched a woman.

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818417)

Hey, I didn't write the movie script.

But I personally prefer the movie definition. While I would never qualify as a programmer and "Hacker" is something I would never have the temerity to refer to myself as, I've been working in the networking/IT field for over 10 years now and I would refer to myself as a Geek. Also, my work shirt with the "geek" label on it from thinkgeek [thinkgeek.com] would disagree with you too.

Besides, the movie definition is much funnier than yours.

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (4, Interesting)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818221)

"Computer geek"
"Can't spell geek without a double-E"
and so on...

I agree. The red-necks I went to school with in Stone Mountain Georgia may still think football and cheerleading are more important than math, science, and computer skills, but they can go suck my ever-hard wang. I've started a software company, own a nice boat, house, and car, while working from home and enjoying the country club. And, I married a brilliant woman with an MBA. Sweet revenge.

Re:Revenge of the Nerds... (5, Insightful)

asdir (1195869) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818511)

{sarcasm} All hail to you, Count of Monte Cristo!{/sarcasm}

Seriously: At first I, too, thought that it would be nice to show off with my achievements and feast on the look of their faces.

But then I realized that being an academic has another nice advantage: I was able to choose to live in a completely different surrounding in which I NEVER HAVE TO SEE THESE DIMWITS EVER AGAIN.

And to that I say: WOOT ;-)

Re:Woot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25819145)

Woot Wool Cool Coop Comp!

Re:Nerds will be nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818021)

nerds ftw

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818025)

Nerds will be nerds and they don't care about their image, the outside world, or those girl thingies everyone is always talking about.

That would be a "goth".

Of course nerds care about these things. The stereotype of the average nerd is socially awkward and generally unappealing visually. Just because they tend to fail at scoring the chicks doesn't mean they don't want one. Just because they can't dress themselves doesn't mean they don't wish they could.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818119)

Correct. Back in high school I would have loved to "dress cool" but never knew how to do it, so I withdrew into computers. And of course I never had success with women, because they wanted the guys who could "dress cool". It wasn't until I moved away from school and into sales (which required formal dress) that I finally got some dates.

It all seems to come back to the clothes. If you don't wear what's cool or stylish, you're going to be shunned.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818713)

It all seems to come back to the clothes. If you don't wear what's cool or stylish, you're going to be shunned.

That's because clothing is a strong indicator of social status.

Social status (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25819237)

clothing is a strong indicator of social status

And yet...people with modest incomes can still afford nice clothes if they want them.

And utter assholes who will use and abuse their women can also afford nice clothes.

It seems silly to me that clothing would be so important as a first-contact filter. But then again I am a geek, and a lot of the status quo seems silly to me. Despite my general distaste for expensive clothing, I own some, have worn it, and have gotten dates. My overall experience of women has been that they are too demanding, often bored by the things that interest me (and interested in things that bore me, like nice clothes), and the pleasure they offer is fleeting. I hear that some of them also spread diseases.

The times when I was dating were some of the most stressful in my life. The times when I did the things I enjoy with my friends who also enjoy them were some of the happiest. So, apart from an inclination to raise children (which I don't have), I see little reason to bother with dating at all.

And without obsession over women compromising my goals, I am free to dress however I damn well please.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818287)

...Just because they tend to fail at scoring the chicks doesn't mean they don't want one....

True. And if for some reason you still have a hard time believing that, just ask to see his pr0n collection.

If you do ask, you might want to take two steps back while he whips out his huge....NAS array.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (4, Funny)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818457)


>> Nerds will be nerds and they don't care about their image, the outside world, or those girl thingies everyone is always talking about.

> That would be a "goth".

Right, because "goth" kids don't care about what they look like, and the opposite sex is clearly, obviously not part of goth culture.

Unless you are referring to the goths that appeared after 1990 (post NIN), when the goth image fell to commiditization and every sorority girl was singing "Closer", every other 5th grader had a mohawk or blue hair, and Target started selling spikey wrist bands, bondage-lite collars, and combat boots.

I'm going to go to listen to some Nick Cave and pretend it is still 1983.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818767)

they don't care about their image

That would be a "goth".

That's one of the funniest things I've read today - thank you!

The idea of goths not caring about "those girl thingies" is pretty darned amusing too. They tend to be quite keen on those "girl thingies" who wear fishnet and black eyeliner - y'know, the ones who wouldn't be seen dead with the nerds or the jocks. :)

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818087)

Academics seem to want to go against common usage and define "nerd" as someone truly interested in knowledge, and "geek" as someone without social skills. This is total BS. The term "computer geek" implies intelligence, and "Revenge of the Nerds" defined nerd as people without social skills.

Parent may be a nerd, and I hope he finds a way to start dating girls, but if he's posting semi-intelligent comments on slaskdot, he's also a huge geek, academics be damned. He should be proud to be a geek, and should work on those social skills.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818337)

I think "The Big Bang Theory" provides a good cross sampling of the stero-types and can be used to illustrate the different definitions.

I would classify Sheldon as a Geek and Leonard as a Nerd. Both are smart, but Sheldon has no cares whether people accept him socially whereas Leonard at least makes an attempt.

Layne

Re:Nerds will be nerds (4, Insightful)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818583)

Wikipedia has good article [wikipedia.org] on the evolution of the term "geek." Often important issues are decided by the terms used by both sides to define the issue. For example, "pro-life" is used rather than "anti-abortion." Americans have a huge problem: we aren't learning enough science, math, and technology skills. This is especially true for our daughters. In other countries, like China and India, such skills are encouraged and respected.

The battle for the definition of the term "geek" is the same battle. If we want to put America back on track, we need to respect intelligence again, and push all our children to excel in learning science, math, and technology. Like it or not, "geek" is the label for all children who excel in these areas. If we can win the battle over the connotations of being a geek, it will be much easier to properly educate our kids.

Re:Nerds will be nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818109)

And they don't read TFA or TFB.

What I find remarkably is the lack of a clear definition of *nerd*. I mean those who are intellectual and socially awkward in a machine-like way, and also people who are simply socially excluded as mentioned in the article doesn't do the trick for me. But the more I am thinking about it, the more I find it difficult to define 'nerd'. So what is a good definition of nerd? Any thoughts?

Too bad (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25817865)

All the cool American nerds will be outsourced to India.

Ferraris... (1)

FungusCannon (1408259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817879)

Who here goes to parties and drives Ferraris?

Re:Ferraris... (5, Funny)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818613)

I had a really nice Ferarri in NFS3. Does that count? :-)

I lost it (5, Funny)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817893)

Around the years of the dot-com boom, successful nerds were driving Ferraris and going to cool parties.

Damn, I spent all this time playing online MUDs. Why nobody invited me?

Re:I lost it (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818675)

Note the use of the word 'successful' in that quote. ;)

Re:I lost it (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818707)

I somehow missed the ferraris and parties too. I was busy doing COBOL Y2K updates (ACUCOBOL 85). and playing turn based war strategy games.

I was nerding way before nerds were cool.

Re:I lost it (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818857)

Why nobody invited me?

Because you do not speak like an adult.

Ogre... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25817897)

NEEEEEERDS!

Nerds. (5, Interesting)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817903)

It's curious that nerds, who are generally very precise in matters of technology, are such painfully sloppy writers.

Like, say, this review.

I don't remember the username, but someone on here had an excellent signature for this: "Slashdot, where people know the difference between grep, zgrep, and ngrep, but not there, their, and they're."

--saint

Re:Nerds. (4, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818153)

I've explained how I think this works before, but got was moderated into oblivion. Hopefully this will light a spark to some of you...

When I type, I literally have an inner monologue going on of what I wish to type. A lot of people work this way. It is a means of pre-screening what you want to say so that it would actually make sense if talking directly to other people.

Also, my hands move faster than I can think sometimes. When words like "there/their/they're" come along, my brain just says "there". Especially in a hurry or under stress, my brain doesn't say "WHOA there buddy. That sound can be spelled more than one way depending on the context".

The same mental clog is what, I believe, to be the misuse of words like lose/loose. In quick mode, my brain is much more inclined to type "loose" for the sound "lewz", because most every other word that has a double-o makes the "ew" sounds. Deep in the grey matter, I know better, but when furiously typing away, such things slip.

Re:Nerds. (5, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818325)

Also, my hands move faster than I can think sometimes. When words like "there/their/they're" come along, my brain just says "there". Especially in a hurry or under stress, my brain doesn't say "WHOA there buddy. That sound can be spelled more than one way depending on the context".

This is where the amazing skill taught in school called "proofreading" kicks in. Before you click "Submit" you pause, re-read what you've written, think about it for a moment, and correct any mistakes. Conveniently, Slashdot even provides a "Preview" button to make this "proofreading" even easier :)

Re:Nerds. (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819203)

I think there is a good portion of people that do not consider a post on the internet to be worthy of proof reading. Any typo's or misspellings are insignificant enough that you can still read and understand the post.

Re:Nerds. (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818347)

The thing is, except for very rare cases, if you think too much faster than you can write, then what you are thinking tends not to be of higher quality that your spelling.

Re:Nerds. (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819147)

I logged in for this. Have you heard of Lojban? I wonder if the enormous overhead of natural languages impedes our thought.

Re:Nerds. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819579)

I wonder if the enormous overhead of natural languages impedes our thought.

I think better in pictures. A bit of an over generalisation, but I find that if I can draw a diagram of something I can understand it.

Probably a lot of geeks (I suppose I'm a borderline one) are like that. Think of all the flowcharts, swimlane diagrams, database entity relationships etc that we love. A lot of non geeks try to use words instead.

Re:Nerds. (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819489)

Also, my hands move faster than I can think sometimes. When words like "there/their/they're" come along, my brain just says "there". Especially in a hurry or under stress, my brain doesn't say "WHOA there buddy. That sound can be spelled more than one way depending on the context".

Yup I do this too. Mind what little code I write these days sucks too. Not that anyone gives a shit.

Re:Nerds, Geeks, & Writing (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819503)

I guess that almost makes me Geek although my social skills are barely scraping the floor of acceptibility.

I personally like the original Geek Code because it recognized there are different "spins" on Geekhood who were yet a part of an amorphous brotherhood. Y'all have me cooked on the high powered technical stuff as my knowledge is very lateral and includes a fairly strong grasp of english.

good review (1)

BenphemeR (1301865) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817921)

Sounds good, I think I'll pick it up at lunch

Now acknowledged as having a place in society (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25817939)

As objects of derision and schoolyard bullying.

Ridiculous (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818111)

At school I was one of the more popular kids because of my high intellect. Other kids loved that I would point out their mistakes to them.

And they always let me join in their games - especially the game of 'Wedgie' which I always won.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Lysdestic (1191833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819045)

I believe that you are mistaken in your reflections.

My, how the tables have turned!

Examples are not nerdy (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25817959)

The Lord of the Rings became a multi-million dollar movie trilogy

Appreciation of Classic Fantasy != Nerd. There is the subculture who speak elvish and whatnot, but it's difficult to make the case that this makes them "nerds" rather than being classified as "geek" (American nomenclature), "otaku" (Japanese nomenclature), or simply obsessive fanatics.

the internet is now used by an incredible number of people

That might be considered nerdy if we were still living in the 90's. However, there is very little about today's computers that screams "nerd". Nerds are partly responsible for its success, but otherwise nerds are still in areas where we're a bit obsessive about the intellectual pursuits. (e.g. CompSci) At least now we tend to make a lot of money off of it. ;-)

and computer games are no longer seen as being 'just for kids

Oh come on. All the cool kids had computer games in the 80s. That was far from the mark of a nerd. It was far more nerdy to brag about how you programmed your computer or calculator to compute Pi to the 100th decimal place. And in any case, computer gaming is on the decline in favor of more sophisticated game consoles.

Re:Examples are not nerdy (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818093)

It was far more nerdy to brag about how you programmed your computer or calculator to compute Pi to the 100th decimal place.

Or, you could have programmed your computer or calculator with the Pi [esolangs.org] language, which would be even more nerdy.

Re:Examples are not nerdy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818185)

And in any case, computer gaming is on the decline in favor of more sophisticated game consoles.

nice troll, you got me. consoles are just computers with software and hardware design limitations...

Re:Examples are not nerdy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818699)

Consoles are computers like wristwatches are computers.

They just do the one thing I want them to do without wasting my time.

Re:Examples are not nerdy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818255)

De-Nile ain't just a river in Egypt.

Re:Examples are not nerdy (2, Interesting)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818389)

I think that kind of cuts to the chase of it.
I know more then a few people who went into comp sci for the money. Some of the were the football jocks in high school. However, they wouldn't look at a computer outside of work because it is just an means to an end.

On the other hand, I was intrested in computers before there was any real money in them. If there was no money to be made at all in the computer industry I'd probably just have an expensife hobby.

Re:Examples are not nerdy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25819029)

All the cool kids had computer games in the 80s.

I hate to break this to you, but you know all those kids you used to hang around with in the 1980s that had computer games? Yeah, they weren't cool... in fact, owning a computer before 1994 or so automatically made you uncool.

Re:Examples are not nerdy (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819125)

Not when we were talking about the Atari and Commodore 64 computers. Kids saw them as game machines and thus they were cool. Parents thought that these machines were educational devices, but the kids knew better.

Now if you had an IBM PC or Apple II (which were a better experience for everything except games), then you were totally uncool. Especially since the Apple II had a reputation as a classroom computer.

"Geek" subcultures are becoming too mainstream... (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818037)

Millions of people use Web 2.0 based sites, like MySpace. Usually, they know nothing about computers, which is why they rely on poorly designed CSS stylesheets and automatic site generators that do nothing but lag the Web browser.

Most people play console games, not PC games. Console gaming, thanks to Microsoft and Nintendo, has gone mainstream. I only know a few people who play PC games and have decent gaming PCs. The rest have Xbox 360s and think "PC gaming SUCKS!"

Console vs. PC games... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818487)

...I only know a few people who play PC games and have decent gaming PCs. The rest have Xbox 360s and think "PC gaming SUCKS!"

Alright, that's it. Who want some?!? Bring it on. I'll kick your ass in Doom II. Mice and wireless controllers are for wussies. So are LANs.

We're going old school. Just two PCs, a couple of keyboards, pair of CRT VGAs, and a serial crossover cable. You DO know what a serial port is, don't you?!? Bring it biyaatch.

(Sorry, didn't mean to get dragged off into that tangent, but this is a post about nerds...)

Re:"Geek" subcultures are becoming too mainstream. (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818589)

Once I discovered FPS games using mouselook, I never wanted to play an FPS on anything but a PC.
Other genres (like driving games) are usually better on consoles though.

Re:"Geek" subcultures are becoming too mainstream. (1)

Carlosos (1342945) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818889)

Or you buy a gamepad or even steering wheel for the games. I did that before even game consoles got popular...

The same way do game consoles slowly support more keyboards and mice.

Re:"Geek" subcultures are becoming too mainstream. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818895)

What makes you think they are all geeks? Just because they feel they identify with geeks doesn't make them a geek. Only the real geeks know a geek from a "mommy bought me a 'puter for Christmas" clown.

self-identification (1)

ovu (1410823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818047)

If I was at someone's house and saw a book entitled, 'American Nerd' on the shelf, it speaks to that person's self-identification regardless of the content. It's advertising a label, and now that there's a book parading that identity, all the American Nerds can rally around and feel validated while wearing their powergloves. Anyway, wouldn't a nerd download the e-book version?

Re:Assumption FTL? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819635)

We're talking Nerds & Geeks.

If he was socially aware enough to think about the image that book would portray, wouldn't he obfuscate it? (Hide it, put it upside down, visually dilute the title, etc.)

Then again, if he *was* that aware of the need, does that make them him a Geek vs. a Nerd?

k? (1)

kingsteve612 (1241114) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818099)

Wow, i was really curious if "nerds had a place in society now". i was worried that nerds didnt belong and should have been banished. what a stupid post.

Like sand - dry and unremarkable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818197)

I read this book. I expected it to be lighter and written for entertainment. It is, however, an actual attempt to classify people that belong to a poorly understood subculture.

I found the majority of it particularly dry.

not to be the pedant here... (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818201)

Ok, I feel like I'm arguing over "trekker" vs. "trekkie" here but nerd and geek both started out as pejoratives indicating the socially awkward who stood outside of the norm. Geek has softened over time to indicate someone who may stick out of the norm but whose intelligence and skills help compensate for perceived social shortcomings. Nerd still has a negative connotation.

Re:not to be the pedant here... (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819291)

I seem to see it the other way around. That "Nerd" has becomes more socially excepted term and those that are still on the fringe of scoiety have been downgraded from "Nerd" to "Geek".

Re:not to be the pedant here... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819385)

Wrong. Nerd and geek are interchangeable depending on what region of the country you are in. It is more like arguing over six vs. a half dozen.

obligatory (1)

gadabyte (1228808) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818203)

no on 15!

Nerd Gets Cheerleader (2, Funny)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818237)

That's alright, Louis Skolnick got some... There is hope to all nerds everywhere.

Re:Nerd Gets Cheerleader (2, Funny)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818349)

That's alright, Louis Skolnick got some... There is hope to all nerds everywhere.

You are aware that Revenge of the Nerds was not a documentary, right?

Re:Nerd Gets Cheerleader (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818671)

Well Aware, Great movie, and my point still stands.

Led Zeppelin != Turbo Nerds (2, Insightful)

sandysnowbeard (1297619) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818253)

In the 1970s, Robert Plant sang about smoking up with hobbits, and it was cool.

What about ... (1)

Scholasticus (567646) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818273)

What about the dorks!?! When are they going to get their rightful place in society?

Re:What about ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818703)

some would say that they already are in their rightful place.

Re:What about ... (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819015)

<NIEMOLLER>
When they came for the dorks, I said nothing because I was not a dork...
When they came for the tools, I said nothing because I was not a tool...
etc...
</NIEMOLLER>

Re:What about ... (1)

Beyond Opinion (959609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819605)

I'm under the impression that dorks are those with the awkward social skills of a nerd, but without the intelligence.

What does Nerd mean now? (2, Interesting)

bugeaterr (836984) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818299)

One of the meanings of Nerd, the technogeek, has fallen by the wayside. It used to be that staying inside playing Atari 2600 while all the normal kids where outside playing tag made you a nerd.
Nowadays *all* the kids stay inside and play video games all day.

The Nerd label continues to stick to smart kids (a.k.a. kids who try to get good grades).
Stoopid is kool and the Culture of Dum rules.
Maybe that's why American Morons are the most underachieving and get the most expensive public education in the world.

whoah, back up. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818323)

society's becoming better at accepting? That's a big leap to make. We still have a long way to go. Anyone who says differently is probably still in college.

Nerd Culture is being accepted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818429)

Not nerds.

Wedgie flashbacks anyone?

etymology of "Geek" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818443)

the word "geek" had a long (and disgusting history) way before it was applied to persons with an affinity to computers.

If the author doesn't get that right... I have some reservations about the rest of the work.

But what do I know - I'm an AC!

what is a nerd? (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818455)

seems to me, it is someone who is simply technically inclined

in previous eras, this might have meant mechanically inclined, or a good craftsman. in today's world, it implies electronic inclination

but today, and in all eras past, the technically inclined have always done well in society. simply because their skills are prized and rewarded

but then there is the aspect of nerd culture, which, because of perhaps different mental processes of the technically inclined, has existed in a different sphere. its works of art has been more removed from reality (scifi, fantasy, etc.). and its social skillset is usually more stilted

but insofar as nerd culture is more accepted, i doubt it was or ever will be, simply because you are either of a certain mental taint, or not

much as being emo is probably undergirded by a certain mental aspect. that, like being a nerd, is not unique to our time. study the works and era and social circle of keats, shelley, byron [wikipedia.org] , and you find a subculture that is pretty much the same as modern emo interests in the macabre and melodrama. (although would mary shelley's frankenstein be a work of nerd culture or emo culture or some protean mix of the two?)

Not so suprising. (1)

Xerolooper (1247258) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818469)

I was a little surprised that some nerd subcultures weren't included, like those around computer bulletin board systems, or tabletop gaming and live action roleplaying.

The author admits his own

objectivity is compromised

so this should not be surprising. I would probably buy this book if it was convenient/priced right but not search it out.
Our personal feelings always effect how we perceive words. Whenever I watch Chuck I get a twinge of anxiety when I see the words "Nerd Herd" across the car he drives. That was what the other kids would chant at my friends and I in high school. I get over it quickly but it's still there after all these years.
I also don't think you ever really grow out of being a nerd.

*Sigh* Only on Slashdot (4, Insightful)

Ynsats (922697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818479)

Will you get nerds and geeks trying to not only define themselves as nerds and geeks but also argue about what it means to be a nerd or geek and which one is more legitimate.

I am a nerd, I know I am. But I'm not ashamed of it because my nerdom allows me make a living doing things that are far from mundane. I don't dread going to work everyday, just dealing with the commute full of those non-nerds that make up rest of the workforce that I have to support in one way or another in my IT endeavors. Just because I'm a nerd doesn't mean I have to fit some pre-described mold. I don't have to be a skinny, socially maladjusted, pasty white kid. I can be physically fit, well groomed and active outdoors with friends that don't cower in the dark fearful of the world either.

There are nerds and geeks everywhere. I have friends who are nurses and paramedics and they live and breathe their medical fields constantly. They know everything about it, inside and out. I can ask them about anything medical and they have some insight for me. But ask them to build a push-pull amplifier using pentode vacuum tubes and adjustable gain control and they wouldn't have clue one. They also wouldn't know anything about the aforementioned TCP/IP stack. Then again, I have friends that are auto mechanics and they can talk at length about the mechanical workings of car but when you start discussing the machine code and C programs used to program and operate the fuel injection computer and they get out of their element quick.

Everybody has a little nerd in them. Just like everybody has a little redneck in them. Just because nerd and geek are seen as derogatory terms in most cases doesn't mean that people who have the nerd or geek mentality about their chosen topic means that they should strive to fit some stereotype. Breaking out of the stereotype invalidates the stereotype and eventually removes that stereotype from common knowledge.

Don't be proud to call yourself a geek or nerd and relish in the uniqueness of the social ineptitude just to say you are different and find your pride there. Be proud to be a geek or nerd because you are different. You are a computer expert or an electronics expert. Be proud that you have skills and abilities that most of the non-nerds don't have. View yourself as an asset to society, as a professional in your profession and present yourself that way. Then people have no choice but to see you as a professional systems admin or engineer rather than one of those "IT Geeks" or an "Engineering nerd".

Re:*Sigh* Only on Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25819071)

Just because I'm a nerd doesn't mean I have to fit some pre-described mold... I can be physically fit, well groomed and active outdoors with friends that don't cower in the dark fearful of the world either.

"... of course, I'm not. But I mean, theoretically, there's no reason why I couldn't be. If you'll follow me to my mother's basement, I've prepared some diagrams! I created them using a custom BSD kernel I hacked together on my TI-89..."

"Nerd" is a cop-out (2, Informative)

DG (989) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819295)

The stereotypical nerd is good at some sort of intellectual pursuit, but socially awkward.

Over and over I see people slotting themselves into these stereotypes "Oh, I'm a good coder so I must be a social disaster".

It's a cop-out. A crutch. An excuse.

Social skills are skills like any other. There are physical aspects to it, as well as intellectual aspects, but it is no *harder* to learn how to interoperate with other people than it is to program C.

The crucial difference of course is that a coding mistake results in an error message where a social mistake can result in embarassment. But so what? Embarassment is not fatal, we learn through our mistakes, and people love a great ugly-duckling story; what better way to recover from embarassment and awkwardness than becoming the suave ex-nerd?

Pick up a copy of "How to Wind Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie - lame title but solid, solid advice - and go try it out. Talk to people. Make some friends. Treat social interaction like it was a new coding language and learn how to do it - life becomes SO much easier when you do.

DG

I am sure that currently nerds in the UK are quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818505)

"I am sure that currently nerds in the UK are quite different to those in the US."

In what way?

Voices from the Hellmouth (4, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818513)

Are we really that much farther away now from Nerd having a negative stigma than we were back in '99 during http://slashdot.org/articles/99/04/25/1438249.shtml [slashdot.org] one of the more famous/important discussions on /.?

Re:Voices from the Hellmouth (1)

pzs (857406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818779)

I think part of being a "nerd" is that society has to hold you in slight contempt, no matter what your achievments.

Since leaving school, I still occasionally run into the cool kids from there. Even though I make more money, am cleverer, have a more fulfilling job, have a beautiful wife and could probably kick their arses in a fight, they still act vaguely superior. WTF is that all about?

Re:Voices from the Hellmouth (2, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819669)

It's about some people being dicks. They don't act like that towards you because you're smarter or nerdier than them. They act like that to everyone because they're assholes.

I like the faces... (1)

mseidl (828824) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818537)

of people when I say, "Yeah, I program." Since I'm a 5'4 200lb bodybuilder. I also totally roid rage all over my seg faults and sudo.

Reformed Nerd? (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818541)

I'm not sure I trust the opinions or objectivity of anyone who is a "reformed nerd". That probably will keep me from buying the book.

To reform you have to recognize a problem. To recognize a problem you have to believe that something is wrong. Therein lies my concern.

More literature for the obsessively interested (1)

jm113 (1109867) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818565)

There isn't a huge academic literature specifically on nerds, but it does exist. A quick scan of SocIndex gives me the following:

# 1. Nerd, Thug, or Player? Group Membership and Adolescent Identity. By: Andriot, Angie. Conference Papers -- American Sociological Association, 2007 Annual Meeting, p1, 27p, 1 chart

# 2. Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds By: Mar, Raymond A.; Oatley, Keith; Hirsh, Jacob; dela Paz, Jennifer; Peterson, Jordan B.. Journal of Research in Personality, Oct2006, Vol. 40 Issue 5, p694-712, 19p; DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2005.08.002

# 3. Black Mexicans, Nerds and Cosmopolitans -- Key Cases for Assimilation Theory. By: Smith, Robert Courtney. Conference Papers -- American Sociological Association, 2006 Annual Meeting, Montreal, p1, 15p;

# 4. Jocks, Teckers, and Nerds: The role of the adolescent peer group in the formation and maintenance of secondary school institutional culture. By: Brady, Patrick. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Sep2004, Vol. 25 Issue 3, p351-364, 14p

# 5. Why We Harass Nerds and Freaks: A Formal Theory of Student Culture and Norms By: Bishop, John H.; Bishop, Matthew; Bishop, Michael; Gelbwasser, Lara; Green, Shanna; Peterson, Erica; Rubinsztaj, Anna; Zuckerman, Andrew. Journal of School Health, Sep2004, Vol. 74 Issue 7, p235-251, 17p, 2 Charts, 5 Diagrams, 1 Graph

# 6. Battling the Image of 'a Nerd's Profession' By: Field, Kelly. Chronicle of Higher Education, 7/9/2004, Vol. 50 Issue 44, pA15-A17, 3p, 2 Color Photographs

# 7. Web Use and Net Nerds: A Neofunctionalist Analysis of the Impact of Information Technology in the Home. By: Gershuny, Jonathan. Social Forces, Sep2003, Vol. 82 Issue 1, p141-168, 28p

# 8. 'Populars', 'Nerds', and 'Normals': Peer group categories and adolescent social identity processes By: Tanti, C.. Australian Journal of Psychology, 2003 Supplement, Vol. 55, p64-64, 1p;

# 9. Race, Sex, and Nerds. By: Eglash, Ron. Social Text, Summer2002, Vol. 20 Issue 2, p49, 16p

# 10. Hipsters & Nerds: Black Jazz Artists & Their White Shadows By: Gabbard, Krin; Pomerance, Murray. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: gender in film at the end of the 20th century, 2001

# 11. 'OH NO! I'M A NERD!' By: Kendall, Lori. Gender & Society, Apr2000, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p256-274, 19p

# 12. Nerd theology By: Kelly, K.. Technology in Society, Nov99, Vol. 21 Issue 4, p387, 6p

# 13. Nerd Nation: Images of Nerds in US Popular Culture By: Kendall, Lori. International Journal of Cultural Studies, Aug99, Vol. 2 Issue 2, p260, 24p

# 14. Jocks, Nerds, Babes and Thugs: A Research Note on Regional Differences in Adolescent Gender Norms By: Suitor, J. Jill; Carter, Rebecca S.. Gender Issues, Summer99, Vol. 17 Issue 3, p87, 15p, 2 Charts

# 15. "The Nerd Within": Mass Media and the Negotiation of Identity Among Computer-Using Men. By: Kendall, Lori. Journal of Men's Studies, Spring99, Vol. 7 Issue 3, p353-369, 17p

# 16. Nerd's corner. By: Hugo, Anne. Youth Studies Australia, Mar1998, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p49, 1/5p

# 17. Nerd's corner. By: Hugo, Anne. Youth Studies Australia, Jun97, Vol. 16 Issue 2, p51, 1/4p

# 18. Nerds, normal people, and homeboys: Accommodation and resistance among Chinese American students By: Goto, Stanford T.. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Mar1997, Vol. 28 Issue 1, p70, 15p, 2 Charts

Re:More literature for the obsessively interested (1)

OriginalArlen (726444) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819487)

And let us not forget the trailblazing work of Larsen, Gary (1982, New York Times).

A brief announcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818571)

"YES, WE CAN!"

What am I? (1, Interesting)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818607)

What am I then? Nerd, Geek, Normal? Is there such a thing as a neo-nerd or neo-geek?

I was actually pretty popular in high school and college, a very social individual, played a few (varsity) sports, played in a band, was good with the ladies throughout my younger years, and now I'm engaged to a beautiful lady. However, I'm also unhealthily addicted to video games (played many, many games dating back to the DOS era), a large Star Wars fan (I have action figures, books and cards still), had close to a 4.0 in HS, was in the gifted program (and went to academic competitions), got a BS in a computer field, work in the IT industry, own almost every console (as well as a GB, GBA, DS, and lynx), have multiple computers with multiple operating systems, program in several languages, made a few video games, made a few websites, etc. I know pretty much everything a nerd would know - but I don't have the nerd negative stereotypes. What does that make me?

Re:What am I? (4, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818911)

Narcissistic? Self-absorbed? Insecure and needing validation?

Really: why are you posting all this stuff on /.?

Re:What am I? (3, Funny)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819555)

I'm wanting to prove that nerd stereotypes, like most stereotypes, are false presumptions. Just as if there was a book for Jocks that talked about how they were in their prime in sports, but failed at academics - or something racially discriminating. The word nerd still has a negative connotation and until we bridge the gap of the two definitions (intelligent/capable on one polar side and socially ackward/shunned on the other), the term nerd in our culture will continue to be negative.

Maybe not so good, but . . . (3, Interesting)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818651)

Nerds are essential Somali pirates, too. The BBC [bbc.co.uk] recently had a story that ex-fishermen and ex-militia are two of the three types of pirates. The third is geeks. "The technical experts, who are the computer geeks and know how to operate the hi-tech equipment needed to operate as a pirate - satellite phones, GPS and military hardware."

Typical dichotomy of people in America (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25818669)

Why does one have to be a nerd, jock, or preppy or whatever. What about working hard at academics, art, and sports? I am not saying that you have to be good at it all; just participating in more than just one area. I guess the ancient Greek values of spirit, body, and mind is what I'm alluding to.

No wonder we've turned into this one dimensional society.

Re:Typical dichotomy of people in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25819351)

I am 0/0!!!

Nerd Images (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818751)

No longer in plain ascii, now in high resolution jpeg.

Don't kid yourself (2, Insightful)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818785)

Once objects of derision and schoolyard bullying, nerds are now acknowledged as having a place in society.

I seriously doubt things have changed, regardless of what books or technologies reach blockbuster status in the mainstream. Anyone overly interested in what's under the hood of those blockbusters will still be treated differently. And nerds have always had a place in society: as objects of derision and schoolyard bullying.

Those are america's problems (4, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25818863)

excuse me if that sounds discriminative, but it is as such.

in other countries there arent such distinctions as 'nerds' etc, or such kind of school bullying culture.

lets take turkey for example. in turkey if you are a nerd and its obvious, your future is guaranteed. you are taken as a good student, and everyone treats you accordingly. leave aside the respect you'll be getting in family circles, in school everyone knows your place, and how your place in future will be. this doesnt put you into the 'in' crowd, - there are 'popular' or 'in' crowds in every culture -, but it wont put you out either. you dont get bullied, harrassed or despised.

and stuff unfolds as they predicted generallly - you score top scores in nation-wide university entrance exams, get into a top university (there are 4 major universities here which send graduates to oxford, m.i.t. and similar), and when you graduate from there, you dont even probably stay in a single country, but rather become a top official in a global corporation.

what i know from a number of other countries is that situation is more or less similar to this, around europe. this makes me think that this 'nerd' issue, nerd bullying etc are exclusively american issues.

John Draper (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25819059)

Unless this book succeeds in helping explain the existence, mindset and motivations of someone like John Draper, and do so in a fashion that helps a person NOT remotely like him to value his existence, then what's the point of the book?

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