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February 04, 2005

Remembering Turkle

I found this paragraph:

Turkle (1984) vividly describes nerd self-identity in her ethnographic study of undergraduate men at MIT. In one social event "they flaunt their pimples, their pasty complexions, their knobby knees, their thin, underdeveloped bodies" (196); in interviews they describe themselves as losers and loners who have given up bodily pleasure in general and sexual relations in particular. But Turkle notes that this physical self-loathing is compensated for by technological mastery; hackers, for example, see themselves as "holders of an esoteric knowledge, defenders of the purity of computation seen not as a means to an end but as an artist's material whose internal aesthetic must be protected" (207).

Back in the first days of the internet, the world turned to people like Donna Hoffman, Howard Rheingold and Sherry Turkle to understand what the wired world was all about. Each of these individuals are alive and kicking in their respective disciplines and better informed about the medium than ever. Yet somehow in the wake of the acceptance of the stereotypical 'geek', their particular studied genius is ignored. These days we are just as likely to grant credibility to anyone with a fetish for cartoon penguins or puts numerals in their spelling of computer jargon. More's the pity.

These days, there seems to be a boom market for manifestos. But they all seem to be pointed to the cult of the dead cow and other elite programmers, hackers, coders, crackers, open source devotees, distro evangelists, p2p mavens and others heavily invested in the new world of geek cool. But this is all Guild-speak. The rest of us need to pull our heads up periodically to look at how all this effects us as people. Turkle's paragraph, now 21 years old, reminds us that there are basic human things going on here. So let's try to keep that in mind, eh?

Next up, decoding the latest manifesto.

Posted by mbowen at February 4, 2005 09:30 AM

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