One Nerd to rule them all?

It began with the forging of the nerds. Decades ago the leaders of the medialandscape came together and 9 Nerds were created.  3 Nerds were given to the race of North-Americans, 1 to the Africans, 2 to the Europeans,2 to the Asians and 1 to the Latin Americans. But all of them were deceived for another nerd was made. In the tiny country of Holland, in the fires of  ‘De Wereld Draait Door’ the Dark Lord Mathijs van Nieuwkerk in secret forged a master nerd. One Nerd to rule them all!

Ok, let’s cut the crap. I loved the fact that our daily roundtable PBS show called ‘ As the world spins out of control’  (De Wereld Draait Door) did a three episode lecture on the history of Silicon valley which you can watch over here. (it’s all in dutch though). Silicon Valley could declare it’s independence and start a sovereign state, with all the powerhouses located over there. So it would definitely makes sense to tell the tale of it’s rise to power.  But you know what annoys living daylight out of me?

It’s not Alexander Klöpping, the frequent new media expert table guest who seems to be way too comfortable as a representative of the entire field of new media (which by now spans from a multibillion dollar gaming industry, down to your everyday phone use). It’s not Mathijs van Nieuwkerk ,who is getting a little predictable and stale as host of the show for over 8 years . It’s not even the show’s ever growing obsession with its self-assigned actuality which sometimes seems to desperately scream: ‘ Look at me!!! I can still compete with the internet.’ No, it’s none of the above. It’s the cringe worthy chemistry that seems to arise from the interaction between Alexander and Matthijs.

Mathijs treats Alexander as spiritual leader of the mystical tribe of nerds. He keeps referring to him as geek, nerd, new media enthusiast and more of the sort. And Alexander seems to be fine with it. Well obviously with that kind of exposure.  It is Justin Bieber music-encounteringly frustrating. It’s as if Mathijs van Nieuwkerk has been abducted, put in a chair in a dark room and brainwashed with ‘the revenge of the nerds’ saga films and ‘weird science’ (don’t pretend like you don’t know what film I’m talking about. What can I say: We all let it happen), then he was let loose back into the world, tripped over a text messaging Alexander Klöpping and saw him surrounded by a beacon of light (choir starts singing ominously) and thought by himself ‘ one Nerd to rule them all’.

One does not simply become a Nerd
Nerd Stark

Alright so it might not have happened quite as dramatically, but you know where I’m heading with this. It is so exhausting to see  public figures still treat all people within the new media field, or even related to this field, as a different species of human: nerds. New media has largely taken over our social interactions (smartphones, Facebook, Google+), our viewing experiences (YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Pinterest), part of our journalism (Twitter), chunks of our every day lives (dating apps, google maps, marktplaats, bol.com) and most of our sex-life (porntube, xtube, Kink.com) and is on the frontier of revolutionizing the agricultural sector, the motor vehicle industry  and our educational systems. Then how, for the grandmother of god,  is it still possible that all this is viewed as the world of the nerds.  The next generation of children does not even know how to act without a constant online presence. Are they all Nerds? Or are we calling them generation Y? Generation X? Oh, wait no, Z. Sorry folks, I get confused sometimes. When does one magically turn into a nerd?

You know what is the most degrading thing about the NERD label and the discourse surrounding it? It sends the message that it’s sad and laughable to be passionate and enthusiastic about something that it’s laughable to be overtly invested in subject matter that might have to do with intellect and intelligence and not be mainstream (OMG why am I suddenly wearing glasses?).  In media history the nerd has always been juxtaposed by the cool tough guy who doesn’t give a shit and the popular one who the viewer would actually rather be. Obviously we gained more sympathy for the nerd throughout the years, being the brainy underdog and all, but it still has very limited representation. There are different subtypes like the Afro American nerd, the Asian nerd.

Urkel Cheese
The original black nerd/Hipster and his love for cheese (Source: Flickr – blipsman)

 

But mostly the nerd is usually still white , male and adolescent. Women still are rarely considered nerds and if they are considered one it’s usually seen as a serious threat to their womanhood.  Same thing for the gays and the Hispanics. But all of the Nerd depictions still contain the same message: Don’t be a Nerd! Just think about when someone teasingly calls you ‘Nerd!’
In this age it turns out that those hippies and nerds in Silicon Valley are actually the ones changing the world in sometimes neat ways. So let’s just get rid of that very limiting label. It makes no sense. The nerd is no more.  The internet is making it cool to actually say something worthwhile. Even gems are discovered in Kim Kardashians quotes: talk about revolutionary.
Your little sister is a nerd, your housebound neighbor, your IT colleague, your friend with the start-up, the comic book reading acquaintance and your lover you met through an online dating site. Yes, even you, who bought a couple of games for your game console, are one. Embrace it, you are enjoying life in changing times. Fuck the label!  I’m buying myself some ‘Nerdnomore’ Axe deodorant and I will make the label magically disappear. Even if those legions of women with no impulse control and a heightened sense of smell seem rather intimidating.

Mathijs, and this is for all of those other pacemakers, wake the fuck up and get with the program.  Don’t get impaired by a need to box it all in to feel safe and accomplished. You can be a nerd too!

And thus Alexander Klöpping was thrown back into the fires of ‘ De wereld draait door’ and nerds everywhere rejoiced.  No longer would they be victimized by the dictatorship of faulty representation and peace returned to the kingdoms.

Martijn Van Veen
Martijn Van Veen
Martijn is a filmmaker and curious mind fascinated with the ever changing world around him. He loves to overshare and to mingle in debates surrounding feminism, LGBT rights, ethnicity, immigration, copyright, new media and the war on drugs.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Again, good article Martijn! Although the negative air surrounding the term nerd seems to have disappeared largely, the lack of cultural understanding of digital revolutions in the Netherlands is mindboggling indeed.

    • Thanks Robin! I do think things are changing indeed. Discourse is changing with films like ‘the social network’ and fiction and news akin to it show that nerds can become rich and powerful now. So it becomes desirable, so you can no longer laugh at it as you used to. I think we are in a phase where things are about to flip, but in Holland this has not happened yet. Though I have to admit that although Mathijs refers to Alexander as nerd, he also seems to be giving a certain vibe of respecting the craft at times. But obviously I want columns that incite and ignite rather than nuance and balance. I love exaggeration as much as Mathijs loves his bands.

    • Gracias! Leuk dat je reageert: to not shy away from feedback and slightly ‘offensive’ humor! Respect!

      Ik moet zeggen dat ik het je niet erg kwalijk kan nemen. Ik vind ook erg veel binnen het nieuw media veld mega interessant. Dus als je elke keer gevraagd wordt: waarom zou je het niet doen? Ik heb meer problemen met de nog geïnstitutionaliseerde redactie structuur voor indelen van de specialisaties (en met gebrekkige representatie van diversiteit binnen het “nerddom” zoals je hebt gelezen, ook een redactiezaak). Ik ben eigenlijk wel benieuwd naar het volgende: mocht het op een gegeven moment geoorloofd zijn binnen het Nederlands TV discours om de technologie-journalistiek verder op te delen in welke specialisaties jij de technologie-journalistiek willen opdelen (welke journalistiek website of gigant zou een template kunnen leveren?) en in welke zou jij in dat geval verder willen specialiseren? Of blijf je liever generalist?

  2. […] Blendle is the first and beloved child of the Dutch media and establishment when it comes to startups and new kids on the journalistic block. Two reasons for that: 1. Co-founder of Blendle is the renowned wizzkid and posterchild Alexander Klöpping. His presence allowed Blendle to get a headstart with all the media-attention. Kind of sour though for Marten Blankensteijn who originally came up with the idea (we still love you Alexander!). […]

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