Let me tell you a little story about innovation and creativity. Years ago, I worked on a wiki-based project to find the first instance of ideas/techniques in video games (like the first game to use cameras as weapons, or the first game to have stealth as a play element). It excited me to dig to give credit to those who laid the foundations of ideas that we now take for granted. I couldn’t wait to show the world how creative and innovative these unknown game designers/developers were.
I went into it with much passion and excitement, but unexpectedly, it turned out that there were almost no “firsts”. Every time someone put up a game that was the first to do/contain something, there was another earlier game put up to replace it with a SLIGHTLY less sophisticated, or SLIGHTLY different version of the same thing. The gradient was so smooth and constant that eventually, the element we were focusing on lost meaning. It became an unremarkable point to address at all. We ended up constantly overwriting people’s work with smaller, less passionate articles, containing a bunch of crappy games that only technically were the first to do something in the crudest manner. Sometimes only aesthetically.
After a lot of time sunk into this project, I came to the conclusion that I was mistaken about innovation/creativity. It would have been a better project to track the path of ideas/techniques than to try to find the first instance of an idea/technique. I held innovation so highly for years before that, but after this project, I saw just how small it was. How it was but a tiny extension of the thoughts of millions before it. A tiny mutation of a microscopic speck that laid on top of a mountain. It was a valuable experience that helped me very much creatively.
Anonymous asked: What the hell's with nerds and anti-intellectualism?
I’m not entirely sure but in order to even start on this one we kinda have to discuss what “nerd” means now. I don’t think most people who self-label as “nerds” in 2013 are generally interested in academic pursuits. I’ve noticed that when you try and engage people who self-identify as “nerds” about their favorite media, or any media really, on a level other than “do you love [franchise]? I love [franchise] too!” it doesn’t go very well and, in my experience, they tend to shut down, or tell you you’re not a real fan. I certainly haven’t noticed a sudden burst of desire from these folks to discuss these things in anything other than “I love this! I’m a Marvel nerd, my favorite superhero is Iron Man” terms.
But then, the word “nerd” has changed completely. I haven’t associated the word “nerd” with the classic meaning, “person of above-average intelligence with an interest in math and/or science and maybe has poor social skills” in over a decade. People say the word is meaningless now, and while I used to agree with that, I think it’s just adopted a new meaning.
A “nerd” - now completely interchangeable with “geek” - consumes one or more (typically three or more) of the following mass media franchises:
Marvel/DC Movies & TV shows based on comics
The Walking Dead
Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit
Anything Joss Whedon has worked on
And on a wider scope, the entire video games industry, along with whatever flavor-of-the-year memes they’ve adopted (right now it’s the bacon/sriracha/Tesla/Neil Degrasse Tyson/George Takei Facebook stuff, which may cycle out here soon. Only a few years ago it was Ninjas/Pirates/Zombies). Unless you try and dig a little deeper - and even then there will be mixed results - this is generally where their interests, at least from a media consumption perspective, lie. The way your typical 21st century “nerd” will talk about these franchises (and in many cases, life in general) is informed entirely - and I mean all-consumingly - by the internet. Conversations with people who subscribe to the modern nerd lifestyle will inevitably unearth opinions recycled largely from Tumblr and Reddit, to the point where once you’re familiar with the agreed-upon majority opinion of a film, a TV show, a director, an actor, a movie trailer, a comic book, really any piece of media, you can largely predict a self-labeled nerd’s take on any one of these things. Go stand in line for the midnight premiere of a Marvel or Hobbit movie at any local multiplex. You will hear the same Reddit/Tumblr/Well-Worn Internet Opinion On Pop Culture Thing stated and restated many many times over. It is uncanny and, to me, a little unsettling. This is Nerd Culture in 2013.
To get back to the basic question, Nerd Culture does not seem to be interested in substantive or critical discussion of the mass media franchises they enjoy. That isn’t some mega-slam or even an insult; they just want to enjoy this stuff, move on to the next thing and get excited about it with their friends. Attempting to engage them in critical discussion is largely seen as antagonistic criticism of them and isn’t welcomed or encouraged - analyzing or critiquing Marvel/Hobbit/Doctor Who/Joss Whedon stuff is just not really what they’re about. You will be accused of thinking you’re so smart, “overanalyzing” everything, being “unable to just like things”, etcetera and so on. That the modern nerd attitude is to internalize the media you love to the point where any criticism of it is a criticism of you is no small part of this phenomenon. There’s a small attempt to hang on to the idea that “nerds are smart and interested in intellectual things” but even that has been distilled down to children’s television-sized “fun science facts” that get passed around as image memes with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s face on them, and their interest and engagement with science ends there. And that, in my current experience, is true for *most* people who identify as “nerds” right now.
This is all not to suggest that I’m some high-minded intellectual giant looking down his nose at the plebeian nerds - I watch a lot of this stuff too and certainly keep up with these franchises. But my interest in media has always - as a teenager and then much moreso in college - has always been about analysis, critique, discussion and exploration. I’ve come to accept that it’s a lot more fun to find other people who like to do those things with me than to try and engage a huge group of people who have made it abundantly clear that they have no interest whatsoever in any of that. Anti-intellectual? Maybe, but that’s an uphill battle I’m not going to fight.
"There’s a small attempt to hang on to the idea that “nerds are smart and interested in intellectual things” but even that has been distilled down to children’s television-sized “fun science facts” that get passed around as image memes with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s face on them, and their interest and engagement with science ends there. "
This is anti-thetical to me. I doubt I am even human any more.
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