Russell Davies: The internet is built for all of us to geek out on something

By Russell Davies, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 18 October 2012 08:00AM

I've always wondered why there aren't internet critics in the same way there are TV or theatre critics. I've always wanted to read someone who does for the internet what Clive James did for TV - take it seriously as a means of cultural production, write about it with wit and intelligence, make people think about what they're experiencing but not, crucially, get seduced by all the shiny newness and possibilities. A couple of books have recently hinted at the sort of thing I mean.

Russell Davies: The internet is built for all of us to geek out on something

The first is Neal Stephenson's Some Remarks. Stephenson is a floridly productive author and part-time journalist. He understands technology intimately; more importantly, he thinks about the cultures, behaviours and patterns that technologies produce. You should definitely read his piece about technological lock-in and the space race - and how we're still using rockets mostly because of insurance. Or here he is on a couple of useful patterns in media and attention - vegging out and geeking out:

"To geek out on something means to immerse yourself in its details to an extent that is distinctly abnormal - and to have a good time doing it. To veg out, by contrast, means to enter a passive state and allow sounds and images to wash over you without troubling yourself too much about what it all means.

"But many people, after they have vegged out long enough to recharge their batteries, derive fun and profound satisfaction from geeking out on whatever topic is of particular interest to them. Choose any person in the world at random, no matter how non-geeky they might seem, and talk to them long enough and, in most cases, you will hit on some topic about which they are exorbitantly knowledgeable."

Isn't that useful? Much better than thinking about "lean-forward" or "lean-back", or just being dismissive of hobbies or people creating content for their own satisfaction. Or of the moments when you just want to veg out with Nigella.

The second is Nicholson Baker's The Way The World Works. This is another collection of essays and journalism from a fabulous author. He's especially good on Wikipedia - here he is on why it worked:

"It worked and grew because it tapped into the heretofore unmarshalled energies of the uncredentialled. The thesis-procrastinators, the history buffs, the passionate fans of the alternate universes of Garth Nix, Robotech, Half-Life, PG Wodehouse, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Charles Dickens or Ultraman - all those people who hoped that their years of collecting comics or reading novels or staring at TV screens hadn't been a waste of time - would pour the fruits of their brains into Wikipedia, because Wikipedia added up to something."

Geeking out, you see? Lovely stuff.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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