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Is the Maker Movement Making It Cool For Kids To Be Nerds? 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-it-so dept.
blackbearnh writes "For many adults into technology, childhood was an alienating experience, pigeon-holed as a nerd and relegated to the A/V, Computer or Gaming club in high school. But according to a Christian Science Monitor article that looks at young Makers, the next generation of tech geeks are social and are gaining increasing support from corporate America. Radio Shack is stocking Arduinos, Autodesk bought Instructables, and teens are flocking to local Hackerspaces to learn how to create their own gear. Wired GeekDad David Giancaspro thinks the desire to create things is natural. 'As we've moved further and further away from that, towards what people call "knowledge work," as opposed to producing something physical, that urge is starting to come back,' he says."
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Is the Maker Movement Making It Cool For Kids To Be Nerds?

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  • Using tech is Hip, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zaibazu (976612)
    understanding tech is still nerdy
    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @08:33PM (#37914722)

      understanding tech is still nerdy

      It is only nerdy because it is so rare...

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:42PM (#37915182)

      understanding tech is still nerdy

      And a lack of understanding is ignorance, which some people wear like a medal of honor. It may make them more socially acceptable ... but they're still ignorant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ignorance, which some people wear like a medal of honor

        I've seen that. Many times when I have to fix someone's computer, they are eager to immediately say "I don't know anything about these things!"

        • Don't forget the Apple fans who want it to "just work" and argue that you shouldn't have to know anything about the device you're using, and consider even a device's ability to be tinkered with a weakness.

          No, being a nerd is at least as unpopular as any other time in any Gen. X / Y'ers memory.

          If you're a baby boomer, you may remember the time we've all read about where the phrase "...doctor or lawyer" as used to list prestigious high-paying jobs, was "...doctor or lawyer or scientist." That's about as close

      • by germansausage (682057) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:12AM (#37916532)
        Admitting you don't know something is admirable. Not knowing can be remedied. It is a lot better than pretending you know something when you don't.

        Being actually proud of not knowing something is unfathomable to me. Nobody goes around boasting they can't read, or don't know how to use flush toilets. I don't know whether to pity them or despise them or both.
    • by arisvega (1414195)
      Consider being nicer to nerds- you will probably end up working for one.
      • by d3ac0n (715594)

        Consider being nicer to nerds- you will probably end up working for one.

        Unlikely. Most nerds don't go to business school to learn to run companies.

        It's sad but true: "A students end up working under B students at a company run by C students."

        Earning good grades in school or being super-smart isn't nearly as valuable in the long run as a finely honed set of social skills. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs may have been "nerds", but they learned social skills too and that made all the difference.

      • I wish this were true, more than likely you will end up working for someone who had the right connections because they got an MBA. Usually this person is someone who couldn't hack in another degree program and was told to go into management because that is where the money is. Either that or they are a family member of the owner. Granted I have worked some places that were run by an actual nerd (a former control data company) and I have had managers with an MBA who were good. The good managers who had an MBA
  • True joy... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new." -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • While I am a card carrying nerd, my experience was you're only pigeonholed if you let yourself be. While I really wash't any good at sports, I stuck it out riding the bench for 4 years in high school and earned a varsity letter as a result. I had friends who were jocks as well as nerds. It's all about persistency and determination as silent Cal said.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      While I am a card carrying nerd

      Oh? Which cards, Magic The Gathering?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      While I really wash't any good at sports, I stuck it out riding the bench for 4 years in high school and earned a varsity letter as a result. I had friends who were jocks as well as nerds.

      Then you, by definition, were not a nerd.

      Do you guys even know what the word means? You're clearly not nerds, you don't even know the meaning of the word your trying to use to describe yourself.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      While I really wash't any good at sports, I stuck it out riding the bench for 4 years in high school and earned a varsity letter as a result..

      Why is this "varsity letter" important?

      This exemplifies what is wrong with the thought behind US education. Why is phys ed (what we call sports education here in OZ) important to your grades? After year 10 (last year of mandatory schooling) it's 100% optional. Even before then, it's 2 hours a week out of 30. Why is such an emphasis placed on physical education compared to science, mathematics, literacy and social studies (history, geography, political and social sciences) which monopolised most of the ti

      • [ shamelessly clipped from wikipedia entry on Rhodes Scholarship ]:
        Rhodes' legacy specified four standards by which applicants were to be judged:

        Literary and scholastic attainments;

        Energy to use one's talents to the fullest, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports;

        Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship;

        Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.

        ----

      • While I really wash't any good at sports, I stuck it out riding the bench for 4 years in high school and earned a varsity letter as a result..

        Why is this "varsity letter" important?

        This exemplifies what is wrong with the thought behind US education. Why is phys ed (what we call sports education here in OZ) important to your grades? After year 10 (last year of mandatory schooling) it's 100% optional. Even before then, it's 2 hours a week out of 30. Why is such an emphasis placed on physical education compared to science, mathematics, literacy and social studies (history, geography, political and social sciences) which monopolised most of the time in Australian schools. I have to say, even arts and manual arts (shop, for Americans playing along at home) classes are more productive as it teaches you some skills.

        Actually, it had nothing to do with grades, it was an after school activity.

        Not that I would like to abolish phys ed, it's a nice break from classroom based study but placing undue emphasis on it detracts from a real education.

        Actually, I'd argue it is an important part of education, if done right. the US has a serious obesity problem that starts at an early age. While there are many causes, it's impact is felt on people's health, well-being, and productivity. If more emphasis was placed on healthily lifestyles as part of the education process we might increase the overall health of our population throughout their lives; giving them skills as useful as

        • So teach them how to cook, rather than pour carbohydrate reinforced grease down their throats - much more effective and useful.

          • by Rolgar (556636)

            As Lisa says, obesity is a function of diet, not activity level. Control your carbs (below 100g will decrease your weight), and eat plenty of natural meat, animal fat, and vegetables (healthy carbs) with some fruit, and you will find the right balance of nutrition. However, activity is an important part of health in ways other than weight management, for instance, preventing us from turning into invalids as we get older. Check out marksdailyapple.com for info on being healthy with optimal amounts of effort

            • by neurovish (315867)

              As Lisa says, obesity is a function of diet, not activity level. Control your carbs (below 100g will decrease your weight), and eat plenty of natural meat, animal fat, and vegetables (healthy carbs) with some fruit, and you will find the right balance of nutrition.

              Or it is a function of activity level, diet, genetics, environment, and culture. We just aren't really sure what that function looks like. Has there been *any* widely accepted "this is why people are fat" kinds of science that has not been refuted by another "this is why people are fat" kinds of science? It isn't simple, and there is not a magic remedy. It is certainly possible to decrease weight by controlling carbs, but that is not the only way, and it is certainly widely possible to lose weight and b

      • by Rolgar (556636)

        There is more to being a human being than grades or mental activity. By biology, we are physical creatures, and we have a need to be physical active, or we will waste away, leaving the world to those who are active. If everybody rejects physical activity, we will become the people in WALL-E.

  • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @08:18PM (#37914590)

    Sorry, won't ever happen. It seems like nerds who grow up to be in the media still project their common teenage fantasy that suddenly the world turns upside down and all the nerds are cool. Hint: the guy hunched over his phone/calculator or whatever and writing programs on it is still and always will be a nerd. But like most of us he's having a good time and doesn't give a shit what label you assign him.

    Also I'd love shove the guy who keeps pushing the term "Maker" in a locker.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Next thing you know, journalists will translate "homemaker" into "house hacker".

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Also I'd love shove the guy who keeps pushing the term "Maker" in a locker.

      Sorry, but "craft" has already been coopted by goths.

    • You said:

      Hint: the guy hunched over his phone/calculator or whatever and writing programs on it is still and always will be a nerd.

      I had that attitude for many years, until I saw a black guy on a skateboard the other day. His pants weren't sagging around his knees and I'm fairly certain that there was no gun in his waistband. He was even wearing uncool spectacles and a VANS T-shirt!

      Nah, maybe you're right. That convenience store owner down the street had better watch his cash register.

  • Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @08:19PM (#37914612) Homepage

    At some point you have to stop looking for external validation of your personal preferences. "Coolness" doesn't have to be democratic.

    • by Nugoo (1794744)

      Who cares?

      Kids, actually, tend to care about what others think.

      • by PPH (736903)

        Who cares?

        Kids, actually, tend to care about what others think.

        Sadly, this is true. And you can't completely prevent it (short of figuring out how to give your kid Asperger's). But you can try to raise your kids to think independently, pursue their own goals from time to time and seek out friends who will cut them some slack for not being a 100% group toady.

      • And I enjoyed life more once I stopped giving a shit what others think. Figured this out while learning about game theory in high school. I can go and do what I like and not worry and the down side is that other don't like it and shun me, or I can try to fit in and others who had shunned me will still shun me because I am different.
    • "Coolness" doesn't have to be democratic.

      Isn't the nature of "coolness" such that other people want to be associated with you in order to raise their social standing?

      The "cooler" you are, the more people who want to be associated with you. And the fewer people who can raise your social standing by you associating with them.

      At some point you have to stop looking for external validation of your personal preferences.

      I can agree with that. But it's not the same as being "cool".

      • by Nursie (632944)

        Actually, a large part of being cool is having the confidence to do your own thing, regardless of external validation, which often then turns up of its own accord.

        Of course there are other factors, having the confidence to dress up in a fursuit, for instance, does still not make you cool.

        • I think it's largely about how seriously you take yourself. You can dress up in a fursuit as long as you do it at the appropriate times and for the appropriate reasons.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @08:23PM (#37914646)

    Society decided that nerds were cool, then decided to actually make those nerdy activities cool. They did so by making it more sociable (e.g. hackerspaces) and more socially responsible (e.g. fablabs). These are good things because it means that people are actually playing with technology, sharing the fruits of their labour, and broadening their understanding in many aspects of life.

    The old fashioned nerd still exists, but I'm confident that you'll find that they are still outcasts. After all, people find it easier to relate to people who can relate to people than to people who relate to machines.

  • The whole summary (For many adults into technology, childhood was an alienating experience, pigeon-holed as a nerd and relegated to the A/V, Computer or Gaming club in high school) strikes me as a cliché plot for some random American movie.
    I was into science and a fan of computers from a very early age. I was teaching other kids how to use them in the period between the 4th and 6th grade. Yet, I was a very social kid, played outside most of the time with my friends and was never labeled a nerd or a gee

    • I was thinking along the same lines. Been a geek for hire over 25 years, and can hang with the nerdiest. But this weekend, I am going to the Lone Star Rally http://www.lonestarrally.com/ [lonestarrally.com] and will hang with a slightly different croud. However, those guys that can make a a Linux box sit up and beg, and those guys that can make a Harley purr, are actually a lot closer than you (or they) would think.
      • Sounds similar to various automotive clubs, it is just being a "car nerd" is more acceptable than being a computer or science nerd. You should hear a discussions on the relative merits of Holly vs Edelbrock carburetors it quickly descends into a Vi vs Emacs style flame war and neither of these compare to a good Ford versus Chevy argument (this would put even a MS vs. Linux vs. Mac flame war to shame).
  • Perhaps people discovering that not everyone can be stereotyped away is making being a "maker" cool. But I am sure the high-school mentality of popular media will fight against us teaching kids they can be whatever they want and have whatever interestes they want.

    You are a nerd.
    You are a jock.

    Certainly nerds are not allowed to like sports, and jocks are not allowed to be engineers.

  • Why behave like a nerd (or a member of any other subculture) and then hope that the culture at large acknowledges and appreciates it? This seems backwards and very self-focused.

    Why not give up the subculture behaviors and identification instead? You don't need to give up building things, or tinkering, or being interested in computers, or math, or anything else. Why shouldn't "nerds" try to reach out and understand the rest of the world? And, if you won't, don't expect people to ever think you're "cool".

    • by MorePower (581188)
      Why not give up the subculture behaviors and identification instead?

      Because the subculture behaviors are things that they enjoy. Magic the Gathering/Japanese Animation/D&D/whatever are things that are appealing and fun for kids of a certain personality type (nerds) and so they associate with other kids with similar interests.

      The nerd label comes wether you want it or not. You can try to pretend you don't like that stuff and are into mainstream stuff but that's a pretty sad way to go through life a
      • by Kohath (38547)

        Because the subculture behaviors are things that they enjoy. Magic the Gathering/Japanese Animation/D&D/whatever are things that are appealing and fun for kids of a certain personality type (nerds) and so they associate with other kids with similar interests.

        So enjoy them. But there's a whole rest of the world too. You can enjoy Magic the Gathering without forgetting the rest of the world. You can enjoy D&D and not drone on about it endlessly to people who don't care. It can be something fun. It doesn't have to be "who you are".

        And, again, why should anyone respect nerds and include nerds without any effort on the nerds' part? Football is as respectable as Magic the Gathering. Want people to understand and respect you? Try to understand and respect

        • Re:Subculture wars (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MorePower (581188) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:00AM (#37916016)
          You can enjoy Magic the Gathering without forgetting the rest of the world.

          Who's forgetting the rest of the world? I'm not sure what you are even getting at here.

          You can enjoy D&D and not drone on about it endlessly to people who don't care.

          Ok but that's a fairly universal human failure. People who love football (or whatever) are just as likely to drone on about it endlessly to people who don't care. Its just that since there hobbies are more popular they have fewer people complaining (because more people share their love of football/whatever).

          Also, all this stuff you mentioned is just entertainment. Do you really think entertainment choices are this important?

          Well, your original post already mentioned not giving up computers and math and such. What else does that leave besides entertainment choices to cause one to be labeled as a nerd?

          Being labelled is not a behavior. If it doesn't fit, it's a lot less likely to stick.

          Ok but usually in this case it does fit and therefore stick. Nerdy kids do, in fact, like nerdy stuff

          Preemptively giving up is not really good for much. It's a poor lesson for kids. It tells people they can't count on you for anything.

          I don't understand what you are even getting at here. Are nerds giving up on something? The kids are just trying to enjoy things they enjoy, and getting harassed because the majority doesn't enjoy those things and labels them as "uncool".
  • No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151)

    The folks who enjoy making your lives a Hellmouth don't fucking know the Maker Movement exists.

    Seek wealth and power, then outsource their jobs and leave them destitute. Living well is the best revenge, but society has made the effort to deserve sociopaths. No reason not to become one.

  • It's about time. I was a nerd in the 60s and suffered some of the predictable ignominies. Now I feel sorry for my peers who have been passed by technology. Unable fully to comprehend what has happened, they are frightened about the future and their place in it.
  • ... be it knowledge work or physical production, we'll all end up working for the CEO's idiot son-in-law. And there will always be a place on the staff for his football (American style) player high school buddy who suffered one too many concussions.

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by devphaeton (695736) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:05PM (#37914978)

    I know i'm going to need my Nomex underwear for this post, but...

    1) IME, kids who would be 'nerds' tend to be nerds anyways. It's something that they just can't help.

    2) Kids who would not be nerds will pretty much not be nerds. Either they don't have the interest, intelligence, or what. But they'll get into other things instead (not that this is bad, it's just the facts).

    2) Kids who are on the fence might be brought in by Make or similar, but this percentage is going to be incredibly low.

    3) Right now it is INCREDIBLY COOL to be a 'nerd' or a 'geek'. However, this definition doesn't apply to the kids in #1. The 'new' nerds or geeks aren't really nerds or geeks, just those from #2 that have found a way to apply that label to themselves so that they can do whatever they wanted to do in the first place. I'm talking the cosplay/anime types who play video games as opposed to writing them, buy Macbooks instead of building a computer themselves, and get into Rock Band instead of learning to play a real instrument. There will unfortunately be little to no talk about science, computers, scifi, Make Magazine or any of the hallmark stuff that anyone GenX or older would think of when you say "nerd" or "geek". The terms have completely new meanings.

    There are many examples, but y'all get the gist.

    • buy Macbooks instead of building a computer themselves

      I agree with most of what you've said (or at least, I don't really disagree), but who builds their own laptop? Really, 'building' your own computer doesn't have much geek value anyway. It essentially amounts to round peg, round hole. To me, it's more geeky if you're doing it for ideological reasons (avoiding the Microsoft tax/Apple and installing Linux) than if you do it for the hardware's sake. Any moron can buy computer parts and slap them together - I've known plenty. In my book, you get way more geek cr

      • by ogdenk (712300)

        I have a Macbook White (2009 - NVIDIA) and get some nerd cred....

        then again my desktop is a homebuilt Core2 hackintosh with a serial VT420 as a second console. It also acts as a Disk emulator/fileserver/printserver for my Atari 8-bit (a 600XL) w/ 512K RAM expansion, S-Video port and IDE interface. Even have a 6502 assembler cross-compilation environment up and running in Eclipse.

        Machine has several serial ports via a 4-port FTDI USB->serial box and I use them. The fact that it uses the FreeBSD userlan

    • by m50d (797211)
      Cosplayers have to make their own costumes (or if they haven't, it's obvious and they will be looked down on by their compatriots). It's a much more authenticated geekhood than reading some scifi/scientific american/computer instruction manuals.
  • childhood was an alienating experience, pigeon-holed as a nerd

    If you were a *real* nerd, you wouldn't have cared.

  • And never will be. Nerds are unbalanced and socially inept.

    You can be smart, tech savvy and geeky as shit and still be cool. Nerds can not be, by definition.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd [wikipedia.org]

    Nerd is a term that refers to an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.[1] Nerds are generally considered to be awkward, shy and/or unattractive by most.[2] Thus, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by others, or will tend to associate with a small group of like-minded people.

    Slashdot used to be news for nerds, now it seems its turned into news for douche bags that'd like to think they are nerds but don't seem to be intelligent enough to know the definition of the word.

  • Oh...not that Maker Movement? Huh.

    Who's the suiter© trying to make-up cool=nerdy=cool urban lingo? Try not to laugh when he says Makers 'spread their wings'...lulz.

  • by raaum (152451)

    See above.

  • I wonder what it says about me when I immediately think of Dune when I hear the word "maker"
  • What is that, some kind of religion where they worship Shai-Hulud ?

  • I'm sure being a geek is cool for Silicon Valley kids, but here in the midwest nothing's cooler than football. Videogames seem to be real popular with kids these days, but in my book that doesn't make them 'geeks' in the sense this article is talking about. Playing 8 billion hours of Call of Duty doesn't teach one science. In fact, it doesn't teach anything.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @11:12PM (#37915746) Journal

    It used to be that it was more common for people to DIY. In the dark old days, the men fixed their wagons (literally) and women sewed their own clothing.

    The "maker movement" is just a regression to the norm. The excursion into mass market consumerism was several generations, so we've forgotten.

    Also, by defintion you can't be a nerd if everybody does it; but that topic is covered above.

    • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @11:32PM (#37915848)

      I think you hit the nail on the head. There was a time when there was a huge skill set of knowledge that went along with being a man. Working with tools, especially. If one defines a nerd as someone who fixes and builds things, then almost every man in my grandfather's generation was a nerd. But that's not really how 'nerd' is defined.

      There have been a lot of /. stories about what a nerd really is and what's happening with 'nerd culture.' The biggest flaw I see in all of these articles is this idea that a 'nerd' is a fixed thing. That it's static in some way. But that's not true, it's an abstract idea that is relative to time and culture. A good comparison would be the term 'honorable.' What was honorable to Victorians is much different than what was honorable to Native Americans 500 years ago which is much different than what is honorable today.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Back in the Dark Old Days when PCs cost a pretty penny, fixing it yourself was a necessity. When a TV cost a year's disposable income, if it broke down, you called a repairman. Ditto when your car broke down, or when other appliances broke down.

        These days, most people don't bother because a new TV is barely a month's disposable income, or much less on sale, an oil change can be had for a twenty and be done in 20 minutes, and fixing a PC costs as much as a new PC at current labor rates. People didn't bother

        • These days, most people don't bother because a new TV is barely a month's disposable income, or much less on sale, an oil change can be had for a twenty and be done in 20 minutes, and fixing a PC costs as much as a new PC at current labor rates. People didn't bother and these appliances became throwaway purely because it's cheaper to buy the latest and greatest than fix last year's model.

          These people also are up to their asses in debt as well. As far as the $20 oil change in 20 minutes that is a pretty bad oil change but it is still better than nothing. When I change my own oil there is still oil coming out of the pan after 20 minutes (pretty steady drips). The best I can seem to do on my own is $40 on my daily drive for a DIY oil change with 8 quarts of synthetic oil (buy it in bulk when on sale) with a good filter. It takes about 40 to 60 minutes to do and everything gets checked, topped [blogspot.com]

    • In the dark old days, the men fixed their wagons (literally) and women sewed their own clothing.

      In the dark old days, they didn't have state-backed DRM to keep people from making things. Nowadays, we have computing appliances that won't run anything without the cryptographic digital signature of the appliance's manufacturer. This has been the norm in video gaming since 1985 with the NES lockout chip, and some pundits are even predicting a "post-PC era" where this becomes the norm even for "work" computing.

  • From another post:

    Also I'd love to shove the guy who keeps pushing the term "Maker" in a locker.

    Agreed. The "Maker movement" is a product of O'Reilly Media, Inc, the people who run overpriced tech conventions. They run the various Maker Faire shows and Make magazine. They seem to be trying to own the do-it-yourself industry. The original article reads like a Maker Faire ad. I've shown at one Maker Faire, and will not do so again. You're unpaid entertainment for a flea market.

    Autodesk has a straightforward motivation - they sell pro tools for designing real world stuff, and the

  • Have any of those cool new fasionable nerd-wannabees actually invented something ingeniously useful?
    • Have any of those cool new fasionable nerd-wannabees actually invented something ingeniously useful?

      Certainly they have, that's the point. Oh. you mean useful to you? Why should they care?

  • Some say that the new Makers are so cool that hip chicks like Andraste are even into them, and say that they want to marry them. Of course, Andraste's hubby is not going to be so happy about this and it will surely end badly for someone.

  • Is the Maker Movement Making [I]it Cool [F]for Kids [T]to [B]be Nerds?

  • The bigger question is why the need to typecast people into groups. This is a unique American phenomenon, where kids replicate racist structures from society into a cast system that doesn't quite exist in any other country in the world.

    I mean, in every school in the world there are popular girls, sports types, ethnic groups, studious people, alternative people, but they generally mingle and can be seen partaking in various activities. Sure a goth is likelier to hang out with another goth, but you can still

  • I only vaguely remember that time, but IIRC according to Norbert's Rules of Adolescence, being a "nerd" pretty much precludes being "cool" and vice versa.

    So if the kids at makerspace are cool, then they are not nerds.

    I have always felt this same cognitive dissonance with regard to "comic book stores". I think that comic books were only truly "nerdy" when you had to buy them from the newsstand/drugstore in front of "normal people".

    IMHO, it ain't nerdy unless it's embarrassing.

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