09 August 2007

The Jujitsu of Geek

Julian has an interesting post up about the different ways in which people can 'own' labels originally directed at them as insults. He differentiates between ironic acceptance ("See how little bothered we are by the petty schoolyard taunt you've tried to apply to us," applied in cases where there's no risk that the label will be interpreted as literally true) and defiant appropriation ("Damn right we are -- get used to it," applied as spin where the Label is factually true). As noted, insults like 'bigot' are unlikely to be adopted through either mechanism -- too sensitive for irony, too dangerous to admit in any context.

I'm wondering how 'geek-chic' fits into this paradigm. Some extremely hip technophiles have commandeered 'geek' in what seems to be an ironic way, but I suspect there's more to it. Possibilities:

Ironic: "I am so cool that your insult lacks all credibility, and is humorous."

Defiant: "Yes, I'm a geek, and will eventually have lots of money and hot women (or men). What was your insult, again?"

Pre-emptive: "I am worried that someone, someday might notice that I am a geek underneath my layers of cool, so I will say it first."

Conspicuous consumption: "I am so hip that I can afford the coolness-expense associated with being a geek, and still be more hip than you."

Countersignaling: "I have no need conceal my geek nature, because I am confident that you will eventually find out how cool I am."