Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Geek Cred Check

Yes, it happens.  Male geeks do it to each other constantly.  It's part of the fun (for at least some of us.)  The problem is when it is used to be exclusionary.

And I think this is a venue thing.  Makers Faire?  Not cool.  It doesn't matter if the person you are talking to has never held a soldering iron or a Dremel, or is Harrison Krix.  Don't do it.  Don't exclude.  Don't assume.  Don't talk down.

Same thing for anyone -- for everyone -- at a convention, be it Dungeons and Dragons, Comic Books, or whatever.  They paid the price at the door, they made time on their weekend to come out?  Then they are part of the club.  That is what that venue is there for.  It is for everyone to enjoy, regardless of whether they can name more than one Green Lantern.

But way off in another corner, there is tech.  It is one thing if you are sizing up someone just because they happened to mention Arduino in a social setting.  But it is another thing entirely if you are working, and the quality of the show may depend on that person actually knowing what it is they claim to know.

Every place I've done audio, or theatrical lighting, I've had to play the lock antlers game.  I've been the one defending myself just as often as I've been the instigator, too (I tend towards a lighter touch when I'm probing a co-worker's abilities.)

I need to say more here.  I've been on a job more than once when a hotshot has tried to take over, shunt me aside with a, "Since you obviously don't have the l33t tech skillz I do, we're going to do it my way."  And that's when I go into full riposte, pulling up tech specs and factinos and, if I have to, cutting them off at the knees in the process.

And, yeah, my ego is what causes this, but I also have a belief that I know my stuff and know what works in my theater, and it would be bad for the show for someone who is only trying to show off to go around changing what works, fixing what wasn't broke, and basically putting us in a place where we can't get the show up on time.

Especially when the antler game reveals a deep and entrenched Dunning-Kruger on the part of the person who is convinced the best thing to do is rip it all out (without even looking at what is already there) and start from scratch the "right" way.

And, yeah, this sort of locking antlers can be fun sometimes.  I've done it over tech, over science, over the few SF or comic book properties I'm actually interested in (not that many, really).  And even over history -- my best friend is a history buff with an incredible memory and I just HAVE to throw in a, "The world wonders?" every now and then just to show I'm active in the conversation.

As I'm thinking about it, I think part of the deal is that geek cred in a specific subject is not the same as having basic geek creds.  It's like a one-point skill versus the 10 point all-skills. And the problem is, if you are a white straight guy who isn't too obviously into sports, you pretty much get the basic cred for free.

I can cheerfully admit I stopped reading Marvel just about when Power Pack moved to NY, and to me Jean Gray only came back once (as the Phoenix).  I can ruefully admit I don't grasp object-oriented, and I only do a little bog-standard C.  I can own up to never having hooked up a ribbon microphone, and having no time in a real studio.  But none of those admissions make me not a credentialed geek.  They just mean I don't get credentials in that specific genre.

And this wouldn't be the same if I were female, a person of color, or some other convenient "other."  Where the assumption of geekitude isn't default, and I'd have to do the antler thing just to be accepted as having an expertise in something.

And then, of course, since the entire point of the exercise is exclusionary, sorting the us from the them, were I that "She's one of them fake geek girls!" person failing even one of the spot checks is counted as failing the entire exercise.  As that pre-supposed other, I would not be allowed to shrug off a question with, "Never read DC, never got into MLP, but I know the Whoniverse up down and sideways."

And, you know, I'd like to think the tech and Maker communities are better than this.  That we could instead embrace the diversity.  "You don't solder, but you know how to sew?  Hey...maybe I could learn something from you."

But it has to start with not doing the credential thing anywhere other than on the shop floor, where power tools are spinning (or on the grid when a show is opening in three hours).

Or, rather, not doing it in a, "Prove yourself to my standard or I'm going to kick you out of the club."

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