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A call to improve Geek Culture
Bar Harbor
"...if we *are* to be the new mainstream, then it is incumbent upon us to take up the responsibility of that power to be a *better* mainstream than what came before..."

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Very inspiring. . .but

Binary thinking: there's not ONE mainstream (the speaker admits that when he claims that NASCAR is considered "a niche market" because it's only popular in the South). What "mainstream" are "we" supposed to be better than? How are we to "improve" it? Is he advocating entering politics? With what, the Geek Party? Many Libertarians are Geeks, but not every Geek is a Libertarian. What about already-existing female Geeks? We're not all Lisa Simpsons!

Re: Very inspiring. . .but

Methinks you are making a binary distinction between the personal and the political. As I see it, his primary message is "Don't be an oppressor yourself. Don't be racist/misogynistic/etc. If you are, then you've just become the thing you used to hate. Be better than that."

That seems like an awfully big "if".

But, that aside - "we" are humans. Forming an expectation that we, in aggregate, will behave any differently than humanity in general is setting oneself up for great disappointment.

From my quote file:
[Responding to a claim that human nature doesn't change:]
"I was thinking about this while beating a slave for not waking me in time for today's human sacrifices and it occured to me that while motivations may be constant, expressions may vary. I was unable to follow this to any kind of conclusion because someone gave birth to twins and the younger one had to be exposed before it brought bad luck to the community." -- James Nicoll

Not yet in my quote file, but probably should be:
"...the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." -- Martin Luther King

Trying to effect change for improved justice of course risks disappointment. *Not* trying to affect change for improved justice is a tacit form of support for those who benefit from current injustices. I, as an imperfect human, am often guilty of this fault myself, but I strive to do better.

I think all of that applies regardless of how mainstream are the various subcultures one identifies with.

I interpret Umbran's comment as "as your group gets bigger (especially if it's done by being more inclusive), expect quite a bit of reversion to the mean". I take yours as "fine, but the mean can get better at the same time".

Correct. If a sub-group becomes the mainstream, changing them becomes as difficult as changing the mainstream, by definition.

So, if you haven't made those changes *before* the shift... well, good luck with that.

Well, I agree with the idea about striving to not be racist/bigoted/etc etc etc. Setting an example by not being that. This seems to be a bit complex though. I mean, if you look at Co-op and MMO gaming cultures, there's an awful lot of bigotry/sexism/racism, and so on. You don't even have to play the games to see that; it shows up on the forums for said games. I've found ONE where the population is 90 percent under better control of themselves, and am rather fascinated about that, since it's a vast difference. Adults vs children, you might say, but I've seen both youngsters and fifty-year-olds engaging in asinine behavior, name-calling, and whatnot. How to fix it? To my mind, the key may lie in that one MMO that's got pretty good behavior and self-policing (I'm in a kin there and was recently involved in helping with that issue... and it went rather swift and successfully). But... not sure how it is working there and not in other places.

I agree therefore that it's up to us to *try* and set good examples - but I also note that example might get passed by in a lot of circumstances.

I've been meaning to ask someone else this question, but since you're bringing up the subject too, I'm ask here too.

Do you (anyone reading this) have advice on how to tell a stranger that their work in progress has problematic elements? If it was a published work I might mention something on my blog or during discussions of it, but not on the creator's own blog/forum.

But now I'm in a computer game beta, so I'm specifically being asked to provide feedback. And there's time to fix things before release, and the problem things aren't central to the game (it seems most of the actual story hasn't been written yet). But OTOH the forums already have multiple flame wars over the game's difficulty, so I don't want to say something that could be interpreted as calling the creators sexist/racist.

Thanks for asking. I think the main things are:
* be careful of your phrasing
* provide honest feedback about what elements you find problematic, and why
* make sure to keep a distinction between the problems and the people creating the game. People are fallible, and it's possible for a person to make Xist comments without *being* an Xist, per se.

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