The Big Picture: Brainiacs: The Once & Future Nerds

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....ahem
you should figured nerd didn't mean good guy back in school lol. It might have been better than average, but that hardly equals nice person. And no nerd doesn't mean smart, it suggest idiot savant.

as in he's a genius about the field that interests him. Ever see beat the geeks?

Hmm, I've been called a dork more than a nerd (mostly by my wife), you forgot that one.

Mahoshonen:
Good episode: touched on an interesting subject while not getting into the area of preachiness.

Yes, praise where praise is due. I went into to this thinking "please don't be too preachy.. please don't be too preachy" and it was just fine.

Izanagi009:

DVS BSTrD:
Wellll I have Asbergers so that's probably true. Kinda thought the two were synonymous already.

Yeah, I even have an unsubstantiated theory that nerds and even early otaku in Japan all suffered from some form of Autism (i myself have Aspergers). All of the characteristics are evident: limited social interactivity, attachment to items and trends, and in extreme cases like otaku, lack of emotional intelligence in terms of identification and how to respond.

You might be right for "otaku" (which is a far more extreme and negative term than "nerd" is in the US, but you are not right for "nerd". There is a lot of overlap between nerd behavior and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and there are probably a lot of people with ASD who are nerds. But that doesn't mean all nerds had ASD. I consider myself quite thoroughly nerdy, and do not have ASD.

I still think Yahzee's definition is the best. A "nerd" is just someone who is passionate about a subject. People who obsess over baseball statistics or celebrity gossip are every bit as much nerds as people who obsess about D&D or physics, it's just that one group has for the past couple decades been more culturally acceptable than the other. That's changing, but it's no big deal really.

Back in School I was bullied for being a nerd.
Nowadays nerds bully me for being a girl.

Izanagi009:

DVS BSTrD:
Wellll I have Asbergers so that's probably true. Kinda thought the two were synonymous already.

Yeah, I even have an unsubstantiated theory that nerds and even early otaku in Japan all suffered from some form of Autism (i myself have Aspergers). All of the characteristics are evident: limited social interactivity, attachment to items and trends, and in extreme cases like otaku, lack of emotional intelligence in terms of identification and how to respond.

I also suspect a lot of people with Aspergers or those kinds of qualities are drawn to fantasy and scifi. That's certainly true for me. I can identify with trying to get along with an alien culture (which is what 'normal' social interaction is for me.) and I identify with characters like Spock or Data who aren't quite human. They kinda have the role of someone partially observing humanity from the outside, which is what I always felt like. As a kid I was convinced I wasn't human because I couldn't do things that everyone else seemed to, like recognise faces or emotions, or know when you were supposed to lie.

Also since I have problems with telling people apart, I prefer fantasy and scifi (or animation) where there are different-looking creatures.

Thanks for this video, Bob. When I found out I have Asperger's, it made so much make sense. I went full nerd, diving into sci-fi, comic books, anime, and science and computers. I still don't tell everyone I know I have Asperger's, because it's named after its funny-named discoverer.
But this is the first time I heard of a "brogrammer". Can we get a vid about this "bro" phenomenon, and what they mean to us nerds?

How to tell if you are a geek:

Did you watch The Big Picture today? Yes?
When the image of comic book guy showed up did you spend the rest of the episode going: "I WANT THAT SHIRT!!!" ? Yes?

Then you are a geek.

There ya go, problem solved.

Monxeroth:

MetalMagpie:
I've never really self-identified as being a "nerd"/"geek". During the time I was a socially-awkward teenager I only heard it used as an insult. By the time I started coming across "proud nerd" stuff, I'd gained confidence, lost weight, started taking part in sports and had a boyfriend. So I didn't see myself as fitting that stereotype any more anyway.

I still occasionally get called a "nerd" by friends/family, but only in a teasing way.

Well its really only an insult once both parties intend it to be and takes it as one.
Sort of, not entirely but one does have some sort of a minor self responsibility to basically...not be offended so to speak. I mean if you go look for everything that could possibly offend autistic people or for example ones own social challange-condition then yeah you would very easily be offended and become a rather sad individual.

Instead i much more prefer to take it with a pinch of salt and bask in the fact that most people who would use said terms or any degrading term for that matter either has no understanding of knowledge of the definition or merits, and most likely are probably pushing down others to make themselves seem bigger and more powerful and the one winning move is not to play.

When it comes to being insulting or offensive, what really matters is what people intend, rather than the specific words they use. Calling someone "black" or "ginger" can be offensive if it's meant in that way.

When people at school called me "geek", what they meant was that I was ugly, dressed badly, tried too hard to please teachers, knew nothing about popular culture, and had the personality of a brick. And they would spell it out if the word wasn't enough. As a teenager with very little self-esteem, I believed them. Which is why advice to just "not be offended" (which I got plenty of from my well-meaning mother) never particularly helped.

I'm now in my mid twenties and perfectly happy in my own skin. So I don't feel the need to apply a label to myself. Especially not one originally given to me by people who wanted to be hurtful and for reasons that I really don't believe apply to me any more. These days I'm more confident, I have a broader range of hobbies, I take care of my appearance, and I'm in a relationship with a wonderful man.

I'm not a "geek", a "nerd", a "dweeb" or anything else. I'm just me.

I remember people here back at school that used to say "nerd" as an insult, but as it is a spanish speaking country, most were too retarded to pronounce it properly and said "nerf", I assumed back then that they were trying to insult people, but since saying "you're really intelligent" to someone never seemed like something to be offended by.

Although I was asked how it was to be a nerd back in highschool by a classmate, and when I said "what do you mean by nerd?" She just stood there staring like I asked her why we exist. I was kind of lost by her question though since I was never to the "devoted to study" kinda guy, although I've been always regarded as "intelligent" or "brilliant" as of a year or so ago.

You merely adopted the term "Nerd". I was born it in, molded by it, I didn't talk to a girl until I was a man.

An interesting part of the whole "autists can't participate in social interactions", aspect, is that this can have a very specific form of facial recognition and nonverbal comunication skills being stuck on an immature level.

Stereotypical nerdy hobbies, such as video games, anime, or comic books, are all associated with children, because the average non-nerdy adult seems to grow out of them.

Is it possible that these mediums' very presentation, with the simplified drawn/animated characters, is the reason why these got classified as nerd media?

I can see what you mean - though I very much class myself as a 'nerd' (maybe from my choice of activities growing up aired on the stereotype 'nerd' side, maybe because people at school used to call me so), I've never thought of myself as particularly smart. I mean, I'm not dumb by any stretch of the imagination, I've just been able to grasp and retain details and methods a lot better than others I've known... Granted, that stuff can vanish from my head if I don't use it for a while, but with a little jogging/light reading I tend to get it back pretty quickly.

It also seems to me that the whore nerd/geek debate (the former meaning smart, the latter meaning just weird) seems to have switched around, to where 'geek' seems to now mean an interest in tech, and 'nerd' means more interest in comics/movies/etc.

Finally, since it's in the title, is it just me who finds it funny that people who use the term 'brainiac' as an insult (I've come across it fairly often, usually by people I'm surprised can form words that long) are actually drawing on a word which wouldn't exist thanks to comics?

Com'on people! say it with me! NERD AND PROUD!

A word with no definitive meaning had it's meaning expanded so far that it means even less. IE: people self identify with this in any area of interest. I took my girlfriend to see the movie Pitch Perfect when it came out in theaters. It had some pretty hot ladies in it who self identified as A Capella "nerds". That is is how far the meaning of this word has stretched. It now has hot girls and jocks identifying as this. So in the case where a words meaning expands so far that it has no meaning, it's effectively not a word. For a long time I identified as a nerd. I grew up reading comics, was very introverted and my perspective of enjoyment was skewed towards the more intellectual. So, in a lot of ways I was part of that original archetype as depicted in the movies of the 1980's. Now I still love comics, I go to the gym for 10 hours a week and powerlift for fun, boxed amateur heavyweight, am now way more outgoing, and still my interests are skewed towards the more intellectual. Since my life has changed thus, I identified (for fun of course) as an "alpha nerd". But now I have to seriously consider whether or not I want to identify as something that is essentially nothing. Good video, Bob.

I wouldn't call myself a Nerd, but then again I am socialy bereft and sexually frustrated so maybe I am a nerd.

Wish I could say the video held my interest at all. In the wake of the whole "girl gamer" debacles I really don't give a shit what label people give themselves or others.

You're a person who likes a thing that's different from the things some other people like... that's a preference.

The only thing I was able to take away from this thread is that a lot of you folks supposedly have Asbergers.

I think Bob puts a little to much value into the term Nerd. It is interesting where it came from and such but honestly just cause someone isn't a walking stereotype doesn't mean they can't enjoy geek culture or even be a nerd.

A3sir:
As long as you don't make the mistake of associating The Big Bang Theory with nerd culture. TBBT is to nerds as blackface is to African Americans.

WOW! Okay, look I understand the show plays off tropes maybe abit to freely but I really don't understand the hate the internet has for it, hell evan those swanky mother lickers on the Idea Channel don't like it. I get that maybe its a little insincere but its not like they don't do some research and you know what I laughed at that Wil Wheaton episode.

What was with the picture of lisa simpson and the comic guy? I honestly don't get it.

Great episode bob and i look forward to the next.

I kinda get the impression that Bob hasn't read a Spider-Man comic published after the late 70s.

I also like the dig at the new Spider-Man movie, followed immediately by the admission that maybe they weren't exactly off-point given the co-modification, so it literally was nothing more than a dig (and evidently a pointless one).

ZZoMBiE13:
I don't remember ever being called a nerd, though I can't remember a time when I didn't fit the mold of one.
I was also a metal head and that's where I got most of my jock hate circa 1986-1990.

Holy crap, someone older than me on the Escapist. I'd heard rumours they existed, but I...I never knew!

(for frame of reference, I was barely tying my shoes in 1986...Or 1990, for that matter. It took me a while to get the loop thing down. >.>)

M920CAIN:
I'm socially challenged, but I don't see myself as smart, so I guess I'm some kind of nerd hybrid, not fully qualified to be a nerd, but definitely not a jock either.

Fortunately, those really aren't the only two options.

DVS BSTrD:
Wellll I have Asbergers so that's probably true. Kinda thought the two were synonymous already.

I've never really come across them as synonymous. There's certainly been some overlap, though.

As someone who suffers from OCD, I've been told some of my tics are similar to those of someone with Aspergers or other high-functioning ASD. I don't have aspergers or any other ASD (Like Sheldon, "I was tested."), but it is telling a lot of nerds have some such condition.

Vausch:

Could be a tough call there. Sheldon on TBBT for example fits pretty much all the definitions of what makes somebody a high-functioning autistic or Aspergian (unsure of that's a word, sure I heard it somewhere) but Jim Parsons and Chuck Loore swear they had not heard of it before making the character.

To be fair, this video itself points out that the nerd stereotypes that make Sheldon possibly autistic predate the concept of Aspergers as a recognised condition. Not necessarily the use of the word nerd to apply, but the stereotypes that would lead to it. Sheldon strikes me as a lot of nerd stereotypes or tropes kicked up to eleven for comedic effects. The overall effect may be similar to ASD, but that doesn't have to be the intent.

He could very well be just a pastiche of quirks that have developed for decades and decades. Of course, those quirks may have roots in the same, or not. Could run completely parallel

A3sir:
As long as you don't make the mistake of associating The Big Bang Theory with nerd culture. TBBT is to nerds as blackface is to African Americans.

People really need to back off the hyperbole on this one. The ERMHAGERD BLACKFACE thing is really over the top.

So the label of nerd or geek is on the same level as Art. It is whatever you want it to be. Making it also useless.

Zachary Amaranth:

ZZoMBiE13:
I don't remember ever being called a nerd, though I can't remember a time when I didn't fit the mold of one.
I was also a metal head and that's where I got most of my jock hate circa 1986-1990.

Holy crap, someone older than me on the Escapist. I'd heard rumours they existed, but I...I never knew!

(for frame of reference, I was barely tying my shoes in 1986...Or 1990, for that matter. It took me a while to get the loop thing down. >.>)

Those were my high school years whipper snapper.

*shakes cane*

*breaks hip from furious cane waving session*

thisbymaster:
So the label of nerd or geek is on the same level as Art. It is whatever you want it to be. Making it also useless.

What would be the desired "use" of the term? The only people I've seen who try their damnedest to get an absolute definition on what a "nerd" is are the ones who want the definition solely so they know exactly who to exclude from the group. If having an absolute definition leads to only negative results, I don't see why it's something we should strive for.

Plus, as someone who's studied some art history, I'd like to point out that art having a nebulous definition has only made it more fun, diverse, and subversive. Duchamp's Fountain was made nearly 100 years ago, yet to this day its very mention still sparks very heated and fascinating debates. It makes sure the art world is never completely comfortable with itself, and it's that wiggle room that allows it to be challenged and grow. If art had an absolute definition, there's a good chance the Museum of Modern Arts would never have even considered adding video games to its collection, and the US federal government wouldn't have been able to change the wording of what it considers to be "art" so that certain video game projects can have access to federal grants similar to what other art projects have access to.

A3sir:
As long as you don't make the mistake of associating The Big Bang Theory with nerd culture. TBBT is to nerds as blackface is to African Americans.

I love how you're willing to vilify TBBT for its "offensive" portrayal of nerds and comparing it to racism, while the character of Raj being an actual stereotypical and borderline racist portrayal of an Indian person totally flies under your radar.

I mean really, I see what you were trying to do here, but if you really think about it what TBBT does with nerds is NOTHING like blackface. Blackface came into being because filmmakers at the time felt that actual black people weren't fit to be seen on camera. So they made caricatures of them to both avoid employing them and putting them on the same level of white actors, and also so that they would have an actor who would be willing to be as undignified and demeaning as possible to fully capitalize on all the stereotypes the public loved.

TBBT does capitalize on nerd stereotypes, but that's about it. There's nothing hateful or bigoted behind their reasoning, it's purely marketing. Nerd is the flavor of the day, and that's what they're capitalizing on. When the flavor becomes something else, they'll change along with it.

I see myself as a geek, but I think I was born one, to be honest. I was born disabled - something which put a serious limitation on any ambition I might have had to join a varsity team, to say the least - and my grades were hugely polarized for most of my life. Give me literature and creation and I'll ace those motherfucking tests! In the meantime, ask me to do my own tax reports and I'll probably lie and weasel my way out of it - or pay an accountant to do it for me. I hate numbers with a passion. There was even a time when I was evaluated and found to be above-average in my communication skills, and below-average in anything computational. Considering, my fields of interest were always tied to imaginary things or concepts. Literature, roleplaying, video games - anything that involved escapism was usually my jam as a kid.

Later on, I had the help of special teachers. Back in the later years of my elementary curriculum, they made me understand that none of what I was was my fault. I hadn't chosen to suck at math or geography; I just did. It would take some time before research would lead me to understand that I more than likely suffered from a mild form of autism.

Thankfully, what felt like an impassable chasm turned out to be a little divot. All I needed was more patience than the norm, a less standardized curriculum and more one-on-one time. As far as math was concerned, I just wasn't a "classroom" type. If they'd known, odds are my parents would have homeschooled me.

I've always thought that what nerds and geeks might find respite in is also where they'll find solace. You're socially awkward? Practice your skills with a chat room or an MMO! You're afraid of working in a team? Same thing! Orientation skills suck? Play Skyrim without the compass and refrain from using Clairvoyance! Get used to the province's landmarks and the sunrise/sunset positions! Then later, apply those same skills in the real world!

I honestly believe that I wouldn't be where I am today without my books and games. Everything I am, everything I can do , both online and off, I owe to my back-seat and online gaming sessions.

Really Bob? It's been more than a year now. The horse is dead. How about you stop taking every dig you can at The Amazing Spider-Man already? Do you honestly have nothing better to do than to carry out some strange vendetta against a movie you didn't like?

Watching this, I realized that Bob is sort of destroying the point that he himself made several weeks ago. Remember this video, where he basically says that geeks and nerds have this great responsibility towards promoting tolerance and social justice?
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/the-big-picture/7645-With-Great-Power

Here's the problem: now he says that there is no classification for a geek or nerd besides "you think of yourself as one".

You can't tell a group "you need to do this" on one hand, but on the other hand admit that actually being considered a member of this "group" is just an arbitrary label that anyone can apply to themselves.

So I go to RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and as I understand it, it's a pretty popular opinion the the word knurd was coined at RPI. The word appeared in an RPI publication (The RPI Bachelor), being used pretty much as we would use it today, as early as 1965. Additionally there's a picture I've seen, which I can't find for the life of me, that shows a Fraternity House on campus with a large banner advertising a party that says "No wimps, knurds, or deans. The picture seemed to be from the 60's but I can't actually confirm that one. If I find the pic, I'll edit this post.

As far as knurd being drunk spelled backwards, I'm told that came to be because it was a word used to describe people who would rather not be drunk and are therefore "backwards."

EDIT:

Hey I found it! Unfortunately no date attached, but I still think its a cool pic.

canadamus_prime:
I wouldn't call myself a Nerd, but then again I am socialy bereft and sexually frustrated so maybe I am a nerd.

Wow I had to wait till post 50 for that song to show up. Well I guess it's really just us canuks who jump to the worms for a song about anything.

More on topic - the more I learn about recent pop culture history the more cycles I see. If you watch Happy days now the Fonz (I've probably gotten that really wrong) who was the coolest character at the time comes across as being really geeky. I think we're almost looping back to the era where being really intelligent in one area is more appealing than being a Renaissance-man.

I'd say a nerd has an in-depth knowledge about 1 thing where as a geek has a greater than average knowledge about the same subject, be it hockey, the DC universe, photography or fashion.

I like being a geek, I know a little about a lot of things, it's just enough to make me dangerous ;)

I think it's simpler than that Bob. "nerd" and activities have either been designed to be more cerebral or made to be so than the casual fare. They wanted to learn, not just absorb enough to pass a test. They read books instead of passively watching the game. They engaged the TV shows instead of using it to turn their brain off. They practically invented a game that's all numbers and imagination. Geek hatred has deep roots in anti-intellectualism, coupled with a binary mind that thnks anything not considered "manly" like sports, must be "girly" thus you're justified in the heckling.

Of course that's also why we took it as a badge of honor. It's one thing to quote Tyrion Lanister about taking the isult and making it your own so as not to be hurt by it, but the 80s and 90s gave us the tools for a really good superiority complex. The old joke was someone that couldn't set the VCR. It's hard not to feel superior when you figure something out on your own and keep it memorized against someone that can't follow printed step by step instructions. The computer age brought the nerd up, not only as someone that would be more in demand in the job market, but could get these funny computer things to work, and use it to find anything on anything. Even little things like the ability to remember decades of TV and comics next to the sports fan that couldn't remember a game they saw a month ago fed into the complex. We were nerds, which by definition made us smarter, more devoted, and more passionate than everyone else, so we were proud of it.

Today, well, the tech edge is dying with more user friendliness for devices designed to be cheaply replaced when broken. The passion's still there, but now comes with the "elitist" label by the people that for some reason want in on a label still steeped in insult. I have my issues with that. To paraphrase Genshiken, you don't try to be a nerd, you just realize you are one.

Glad you didn't talk about "dorks"

There was an insult in Australia where people insulted the smarter ones by calling them a "Spock" when I was a kid in Highschool (About 10 years ago).

Back then, I would have taken offense (But I wasn't that bright so no-one called me that anyway) but now that I think about it; how is calling someone a profoundly logical and brilliant person an insult? Oh well, kids.

Really good episode Bob, lots to think about here.

Definitely agree that "Nerd culture" has been looking at itself and its past with rose tinted glasses. We're not so much better, as we are different. Our level of discourse definitely proves we're not as enlightened as we like to think we are.

Yes, I've often associated my intellect with this guy.
image
Nah, I can work my way through some differential calculus and thermodynamics.

This video brings about this song, however.

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