Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Geek Movie? Absolutely

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 25, 1997

Posted to HotWired 25 July 97

T.J. is on the mark. Contact was definitely a geek movie. And it was a geek movie not simply because it had computers and aliens. It was a geek movie because it made viewers think.

I don't think being geek is dependent on technology. Put a geek on a desert island and she'll still be a geek (doing things like redesigning the island's drainage patterns, for example).

Being a geek is based on an attitude. Like Jodie Foster's in Contact. It's a drivenness, a passion, a stance which says to all who dare oppose, "Well, what do you know?" Most of the world withers when faced with such an attitude, because most of the world doesn't know very much.

But what a geek wants is for someone to reply, "Well, I know quite a lot," and to then proceed to spell out in detail (with examples, diagrams, and preferably a working model) why the geek was wrong.

That's what happened in Contact. The antagonist wasn't simply blown away under a hail of bullets (or blaster rays, or whatever). The antagonist went away and came back armed with wits, reason, and a good argument - an argument which forms the theme of the movie.

This theme - why btw Katz seems to have missed entirely - is that scientists, like priests, need to have faith. When viewed in this light, the science versus religion debate takes on an entirely different flavour, one which was interestingly explored in Contact.

Oh, and a post-script:

The "island somewhere in the Pacific" Katz refers to was Hokkaido - the northernmost of Japan's four major islands. The fact that Katz can't seem to pin down the location indicates a serious need for an atlas.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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