We live in a culture where ideas, trends and other assorted memes often spread out from niches and become pervasive across larger segments of society. This phenomena ties back to the rise of Geek culture — what we sometimes refer to as being “geeked-out”. Today, one can be deemed a ‘Geek’ across any number of areas, from music, to street fashion, to role playing games. It’s all about really being into that one thing.
Where graphic novels, fantasy role playing games and anime were once quietly shared amongst like-minded souls, these interests today thrive across digital and analog communities in an influence-driven meritocracy almost always accessible to anyone. Over the last decade or so, perceptions of geekdom have evolved from a fringe element to a dynamic source of influential ideas, memes and inspiration.
The answer lies in the shift from predominantly mass media led to digitally led flows of information.
Back in the day, the most powerful sources of information were centralized, deriving power from access to capital and their sheer ubiquity. The local newspaper. TV networks. General news magazines. Because mass media had disproportionate control over the flow of information, they had an interest in playing to the most common denominator and cultivating broad appeal. There was little interest from these powerful entities in promoting niche cultural interests such as Swedish sci-fi thrillers or a Yakuza serial dramas to ‘the masses’.
The digital flow of information certainly played a big role in the rise of Geek culture. And today, rather than information flowing from a centralized source to the masses, information flows between and amongst like-minded groups. Classmates. Co-workers. Neighbors. And fellow Geeks.
And Geeks are the ones often brokering in the most interesting, authentic content. And with the enhanced ability to share this digitally, this content now can take on a life of its own. That mash up video of Gears of War footage set to Cypress Hill- check it out! Mountain biking through a Brazilian bario – etc, etc. All of a sudden, some of the most interesting engaging ideas were originating from the deepest recesses of geeked-out niche interests.
So welcome to the age of Geek culture. I believe we are smarter, better informed and more well-rounded because of it.