Geek Knowing: From FAQ to Feminism 101

Speaker  Joseph Reagle

Host  Kate Crawford

Affiliation  Northeastern and Berkman Center

Duration  00:59:21

Date recorded  11 November 2013

In addition to information sharing and helpfulness, geek culture has a complementary norm obliging others to educate themselves on rudimentary topics. This obligation to know is expressed by way of jargon-laden exhortations such as “check the FAQ” (frequently asked questions) and “RTFM” (read the fucking manual). Additionally, the geek lexicon includes designations of the stature of the knower and the extent of what he or she knows (e.g., “newbie”). Online feminists, especially “geek feminists,” are similarly beset by naive or disruptive questions, and demonstrate and further their geekiness through the deployment of the obligation to know, with some interesting differences. For instance, geek feminism includes a term for designating rudimentary (i.e., “101”) knowledge, for “derailing” questions, and has novel concerns with respect to stature and extent of knowing (e.g., the Unicorn Law, impostor syndrome, and mansplaining).

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