Geek Culture

Like many people of my generation, I am surprised to find what was out is in. I was always the type to like what I liked, no matter who said what about it. This has always been obvious in my clothing choices, but it is not the only thing.

My personal geek has always been history. When I graduated from college with a B.A. in History I decided I could stop calling myself an ‘history nut’ to calling myself an ‘Historian’. I have never made the change.

But there is also books. I love to escape into a great story. My teachers used to have to slow me down. I was told that I would not have time to read all of Little Women in time to finish my fourth grade book report. In fact sometimes it is a book that gets me into history. Reading a book about King Tutankhamun’s tomb is what got me into studying Egypt for several years.

And then there is the clothes. Historical clothes, fantasy clothes, elegant clothes, funky clothes, kids dressed like grown-ups, grown-ups dressed like kids. Most anything that was not the norm was fair game. (That said, more recently there have been a lot of people pushing that same box in places I won’t even go.

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Like this rendition of a bubble dress)

When I was young I resisted a lot of ‘geek’ things. I had a personal ban on sci-fi, was wary of fantasy, knew nothing of Anime, and rejected Video Games. But I always felt a kinship with this type of geek. We were all outcasts, we knew what it was to be left out of the clique. But somewhere we had a feeling that some people, maybe even the ones who hassled us the most, did it because they were afraid to let anyone know they were like us.

Later on, with the re-birth of Goth, I found the first outcast clique I felt like I could fit in with. The fun clothes were just up my alley, and I did not keep to the ‘all black’ rule, as my Morticia Morticia dress might show. I remember one day I was wearing a lime green floor length dress that I had made with black lipstick and some friends started to debate whether people who saw me would assume I was a Goth or a Raver. I had a lot of fun with the fact that I could find makeup in totally wild colors, and I would spend the hour and a half morning bus ride designing elaborate Venetian style masks out of eyeliner.

By this point Lord of the Rings was out, and I was a big fan. I still had not seen Star Wars, but I was beginning to be exposed to Anime somewhat, and I was more computer savvy than most people my age, although by no means a computer geek. Compared to them I live in the stone ages. (And might prefer that). I was already in the SCA and was finally feeling like there were people with whom I could fit in, something that, outside of Madrid, I thought was impossible in elementary school.

It was not until an awesome college professor who specialized in Shakespeare had us analyze A New Hope that I finally got over my ‘no sci-fi’ rule, although I do still find a lot of it not to my taste. I still have trouble getting into video games just because they have a tenancy to eat so much time. That said, I have my weaknesses. I play Sims, Tetris, Bloons and Civilization far more than I should, and I play Minecraft (much to the amazement of my students when I was substitute teaching) on occasion. I love going to cons, of any sort. It is another place where I feel at home in my crazy costumes.

These days, with the popularity of geek I find that I feel almost disappointed, now that the people who would have been my bullies behave like they are my pals, I get a bit put off sometimes. As many people know it is easy to tell a true fan from those who embrace the geek because of the popularity. And sometimes, because I am a late-comer to some of the geek myself, I feel like I am either placed in that category or I am being deceptive to people who think I have been a lifelong fan. On the other hand, there are so many things that do play into my lifelong geeks, that I feel like finally the fad has joined me.

Steampunk is a perfect example. It is technology, albeit fictional, that I can understand on some level, it is history, sort-of, and it is clothes! Victorian is one of my favorite periods, and recently it has shown up in several places. In my own mind I make a distinction between

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true Victorian
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the idea of Victorian   (Dracula, Melodrama, etc.)

as well as

 

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Goth Victorian

and

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Steampunk

But I like all of them and I think that it is awesome that something so different from modern fashion is having its own ‘retro’.

 

Growing up where I did I have not really had much opportunity to go to conventions, but where I am living now is part of the nerve center for some of it, and I really want to go explore it more.

AUGMENTED REALITY

Virtual reality, Augmented reality, holograms; it all sounds like science fiction. But we are entering this age. We already have motion controlled computer interfaces (Wii, Kinect, Playstation Move). Brain controlled is around the corner (Force Trainer, Necomimi, and the most advanced I have seen, from a TED talk). All of these are getting better as we speak. These are all about how we communicate with the computer, but there are advances in the way that computers communicate with us as well.

We have had new projects delving into different ways to present information to ourselves for many years. Today we see 3-D, curved screens, projectors. We have seen more risky things flop before. The Virtual Boy is a prime example, it was an early attempt at virtual reality video games. So what is virtual reality? Virtual reality is being able to enter a world that does not actually exist. There is also ‘Augmented Reality’ which is using a computer to change, or ‘augment’ how we see the world. This is basically using a computer to overlay virtual images into the real world. Hologram is altogether a different beast. They use a projection system to put an image into the real world that anyone looking at it can see.

Today we are seeing these things on the horizon, some are even on the market already, many will be out in the next several years. The Oculus Rift is a cutting edge virtual reality gaming device. It tracks the motion of your head to control the game world, as well as using a traditional controller to actually move. Google Glass is the most well-known augmented reality technology coming to the market. Testers have already been using them in the real world. It is being marketed as a heads-up display, this is the most common idea of what augmented reality is. Google Glass has the capability of showing a video to the wearer, projecting maps onto real world streets, and even letting us interact with games that only we can see. Even the Nintendo 3DS has an augmented reality game where the player shoots little pictures that pop up around the room. The most hyped Augmented reality right now is being terribly mis-marketed. The Microsoft HoloLens. This may be the technology that interacts the most with the real world. It can show images interacting with real-world objects. Like a game of Minecraft sitting on your living room table (until I saw this I was wondering why Microsoft bought Minecraft.) or someone pointing out what to fix. This is all incredibly cool, but it is not a hologram. A hologram is a three dimensional virtual object in space, like Hatsune Miku. This is a popular singer from Japan who is completely a computer construct (including her voice) and still does full concerts.

I am absolutely fascinated by all of these technologies, but I believe we need to maintain realism in their marketing. If Microsoft is so keen on selling the HoloLens as something so much more advanced than Google Glass as to do so much work to make it seem like an entirely different technology, why when I search Google Glass do ads for HoloLens come up?

While the HoloLens is interesting to me, it is not as friendly for everyday wear. I am excited to see it, but I really look forward to Google releasing Glass for the public.

Update 1: Since I first published this about a year ago I have found that Google Glass has said that the prototype phase is over, and is still committed to the product, but do not have any official release dates

Update 2 – Google Glass has been shelved for the time being. On the Virtual Reality front however, the HTC Vive has been making a splash with its superior motion control features, while another Google entry, the Daydream, is intriguing. In brain-control there is the Mind Flex, and an unnerving TED talk about controlling another person! The future is out there!