Open Codex HISTORICAL entry

2012 Jul 02 | Keeping up? Fun or work?

In Nafus’ piece on Patches Don’t Have Gender there is a statement that initially puzzled me. Nafus writes:

New programming languages similarly proliferate at a rate that confounds everyone involved…. We experienced exactly this problem in learning to participate in the F/LOSS community in Paris. What at first was a trade-off between learning the native language of the field and getting on with the ethnography subsequently turned out to be a never-ending spiral of new technical forms of which community members were themselves challenged to keep on top. [Nafus2010pdh, p. G77]

Keeping up is certainly a challenge, and I have encountered evidence this may contribute to burnout and infocide. However, I think for a lot of computer geeks, knowing and playing with the latest and greatest technology is also enjoyable; if it is a spiral, it is a fun spiral. (Especially, if in one’s job entails staid technology.) Christina Dunbar-Hester, in Geeks, Meta-Geeks, and Gender Trouble: Activism, Identity, and the Low-Power FM Radio, recognizes this issue when she writes:

sometimes during downtime between ‘productive’ activities, the geeks were simply playing (as in the example of Simon listening to the data transmission while needed files were downloading). Since Geek Group was a leisure activity, regular participants were likely to be people who found the radio tinkering enjoyable, as opposed to finding it hard, unfamiliar work. Novices may feel intimidated by being unable to fully contribute to not only work but also play; some technical expertise or vocabulary could be equally required to make or get the geeks’ jokes as to diagnose a broken transmitter. [Dunbar-Hester2008gms, p. 220]

Very interesting! And I think this may explain some resistance to attempts to broaden participation by some men: geeking is not supposed to be something one works at or must be encouraged to do; it is fun and seemingly innate. (Of course, this intuition is often made in the context of not being discouraged – even if implicitly – from pursuing the geek path.)


Open Communities, Media, Source, and Standards

by Joseph Reagle


reagle.org