This past weekend, I attended the first annual Asian American ComiCon, which had many exciting workshops and panels. One of my favorites was the panel discussion on “Nerd Pop,” which explored how “nerds have gone from a persecuted minority to masters of the universe.”
Before this panel, I never thought about what exactly defined a nerd. To me, a nerd was just a stereotype used in school for typically non-athletic, socially awkward bookworms. It’s one of those types where you know one when you see one. To my surprise, a panelist argued how essentially everyone is a nerd because technology allows us to create our own alternate realities, which is a big part of what defines of a nerd. When people play “Dungeons & Dragons” or “World of Warcraft,” they are escaping the world by creating another. Similarly, everyday people use technologies on the Internet like iGoogle to control what they want to view, thus creating their own personalized world.
Thirty minutes into the panel discussion, a myriad of opinions were thrown out by audience members on how the idea of a nerd has progressed in our culture. One audience member thought that a “neo-nerd” was someone who cares too much about any one thing. Another mentioned how hipsters are starting to dress like nerds because it is a cool new trend. There were also interesting ideas on why people are now more accepting to nerds:
“It’s because nerds are ruling the world. Look at the creators of Google and Bill Gates!” (They are quite envious. I wonder where all of the prom kings and studs from high school have ended up…)
“People are trying to cope with the lack of culture. Being nerdy is more interesting than being another girl on ‘The Hills.’ ” (I wholeheartedly agree).
“Demographics are changing. Asians are always seen as nerdy, but when 40 percent of your high school is Asian, no one can really make fun of you for being nerd-like.” (Asian nerds uprooting American culture, nice).
No matter which angle you view the evolving definition of the nerd, the undeniable fact is that nerds will most likely take over the world (Google and Bill Gates are only the beginning). The die-hard fans of comics and the gaming industry prove that escapist technologies and outlets appeal to the imaginations of all people, whether you wear the “nerd” label or not.