Geek culture and it’s counterculture sell-by date

This is great, and my first reaction is yes, yes.

For many cultural and artistic movements there is a “counter-cultural moment” when a previously obscure and out-of-the-way tendency suddenly gains prominence. It may be the surrealists in the ’30s, Bauhaus in the ’20s, the hippy movement in the late ’60s, punk in the late ’70s – each had a few years in which it was both important and yet still opposed to the mainstream. But that counter-cultural moment is short, often just a handful of years, and once it is over, the movement either becomes the mainstream or fades away. Only nine years after the summer of ’67 the hippies were a thing of the past and punk set itself up in direct opposition to the pompous and irrelevant dinosaurs that “progressive rock” bands had become.

“Geek culture” has had its counter-cultural moment. It’s over.

It is now eight years today since Wikipedia started, four years since blogging, ten years of Google. These formerly “hungry upstarts” are now the establishment. Netflix partners with Wal-Mart, Google partners with CBS, Amazon is bigger than any of those “establishment” bookstores it challenged and pushes around publishers with impunity. Geek culture is now mainstream. Google, Amazon, Netflix have passed their counterculture sell-by date.

But yet again.  There are some distinctions to be teased out.  For example, some of what is “geek culture” is indistinquishable from the techno-scientific-industrial revolution; and that firestorm just keeps going and going.  Some of what is “geek culture” is the rise of groups (scale free) condensing in the network; and that just keeps happening.  And while the cultural bit is all true there it’s bigger than that – touching all the social sciences.

On balance, and I’ve felt for quite a while now,  we went thru a real phase change when the Internet went mainstream.  At the moment it transititioned it was a real oh-dear/oh-my-goodness moment.  We are on the otherside of that.  There is plenty of remaining turbulance yet to be played out.  Plenty of solid bits waiting to be be liquidated.  Some, like the newspaper industry or walmart, are plenty big.    But the big-bang appears to be behind us.

2 thoughts on “Geek culture and it’s counterculture sell-by date

  1. François Schiettecat

    I am not so sure that the big-bang is behind us, true the internet is mainstream but there are still too many people behind narrowband connections, and broadband is still very slow, and lets not even talk about mobile. I think there is a lot more to come.

    ps – you need to make your name field a little longer, three more characters will do for me.

  2. mtraven

    Personally, I thought that geek culture started to die at exactly the moment the first Wired magazine came out (17 years ago). I suppose most people would say that’s when it started, but what do they know? That’s when geekdom stopped being a genuine subculture and started to be a mass=marketed pseudohip lifestyle. The moment when Wired was sold to S. I. Newhouse (1998) represents another phase transition; the point where even the pretense of being a countercultural avant-garde is finally stripped away.

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