This question is one that I’ve been contemplating for a little while. I saw this video from Comediva that also got me thinking:
I use the words geek and nerd kind of interchangeably, as a lot of people do, but there really is a difference, and I think that difference goes to how deeply you like to delve into material. Here’s how I’ll define the two:
Geek: Passionate about a subject (or many subjects) to the point where you consume media tie-ins like web video, books, and comics as well as participate in forums. You like discussing and dissecting the subject as if it were a real world. Geeks are more likely to engage in cosplay and write fan-fiction.
Nerd: likes to intellectualize the subjects they are passionate about. Nerds will watch the show, but then will learn about the writers and directors and discuss the technical aspects of the show. Nerds are more likely to discover continuity errors.
Now, these are just my definitions. As a nerd I’d love to see actual research done to differentiate the two. Until that time, I’m going with my definitions.
I came up with them because I was talking with a geek friend and noticed a difference in the way we enjoy media. We were talking about a book and I mentioned that the author most likely wrote it that way because of influences from certain books as well as her religious beliefs. She didn’t understand how I can enjoy books if I’m always analyzing them in various contexts (time period, authors experiences, author’s stated influences, etc.). I said, “That’s why I enjoy these books.”
Then this past Saturday as we were hanging out watching Safety not Guaranteed (a great movie BTW), it happened again (but this time I had come up with my Geek vs. Nerd hypothesis). After the movie ended we discussed how it ended. I said that I believed it had to end the way it did otherwise it would have undercut the tone of the movie (I’m trying to do this without any spoilers). I came at it from a screenwriting/directing perspective. She was invested in the world of the movie and loved the ending because she wasn’t sure what to expect. We both enjoyed the movie, but she loved it for different reasons. She loved the world that was created and the characters in it. I loved it because of those same reasons, but also liked the technical aspects and the decisions the writer and director made (I mean, having Jake Johnson’s character hook up with a girl he loved in High School is metaphorically time traveling – I like things like that).
I think nerds are the ones who learn Klingon and actually learned physics to try to make Star Trek a reality. Both are extremely passionate about the source material, but nerds need to find the intellectual underpinnings of everything. It’s why nerds aren’t defined by pop culture, they can just be nerdy about math and science. Geeks require pop culture (or at least culture, like D&D or Ren Fairs).
You can be a Geek without being a nerd. You can be a nerd without being a Geek. You can be both.
I’m proudly both. Here are my Geek Credentials: I’m a Trekkie (I’ve read damn near every book in the ST:TNG series, and consider the ST:DS9 book relaunch a stroke of genius.) I own a model of the Enterprise NCC-1701D. I started collecting comics in Junior High. I quickly learned that X-men, Spider-man, and the Hulk were my favorites. The Hulk as written by Peter David is what I’d like to see in the next Hulk movie. I also prefer Marvel over DC in comics. I love Joss Whedon. The Whedonverse is amazing (season 9 of Buffy is at a comic book store near you). This Christmas I’m buying myself a replica of Capt. Malcolm Reynolds gun. I love horror, especially Zombies. I actually take the Zombie apocalypse into account when choosing an apartment.
As for my nerd credentials: I graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class where I was in the marching band. I was originally going to study Physics but switched to Psychology with a minor in English. I read books on Psychology, History, and Physics for fun. I own over 600 books, mostly hardcover. I dissect and question everything I read. I will periodically question my own beliefs if I am worried I’m becoming dogmatic about a position. I use the phrase, “I don’t know, I need to research that”, when presented with a question I don’t know the answer to. I like researching new topics. I consider my goal in life to “eliminate as much ignorance” from my mind as possible. I’m also smart enough to know that no matter how much I know, there’s always still more. If I had unlimited wealth, I’d pursue multiple degrees. Oh yeah, I purposefully went to college just to learn, not to get a job (much to my mother’s chagrin).
Personally it doesn’t really matter how you choose to self-identify. It’s really just great to be living in a time when there is so much Geek and Nerd culture around. It’s also great to be living in a world that has brought so much of my Sci-Fi fantasies to life. I have a tablet similar to what the padd in Star Trek that I use for reading, business, and surfing the web. My mobile phone is actually more versatile than the original Star Trek communicators. Sure it can’t send sub-space signals or communicate with people on the moon, but it can stream video, pinpoint my location on earth, and work as a computer. It’s also getting better at recognizing my voice (it recognizes Rifftrax!). We don’t have flying cars, but a guy just jumped from low earth orbit and Virgin is working on space flights.
So I’m a geek and a nerd (a gerd? neek?), which do you self-identify as? What’s the geekiest/nerdiest thing you do?