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Kelty—Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics

Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics

by Chris Kelty

[Kelty, Christopher. 2005. “Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics.” Cultural Anthropology 20 (2): 185–214.]

Points

Recursive public

  • “a group constituted by a shared, profound concern for the technical and legal conditions of possibility for their own association” (185)
  •  “a group of individuals who, more often than not, only associate with each other because of a shared concern for the conditions of possibility of their own association (i.e., the Internet)” (205)

Social Imaginaries

  • “ways in which people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations” (Taylor 2002: 106)

Ethnography of Geeks

  • Geeks embrace a “Stop talking and show me the code” attitude, wherein discourse takes place both verbally and through the writing and implementation of code.
  • Geek folklore of the Internet—that it senses danger and routs around it; that once something is on the Internet, it will never not be—portrays an inevitability [ex. The singularity]
  • Geek culture rallies around a rhetoric of ‘openness’ that directly acts against strictures and censorship

ABSTRACT

This article investigates the social, technical, and legal affiliations among “geeks” (hackers, lawyers, activists, and IT entrepreneurs) on the Internet. The mode of association specific to this group is that of a “recursive public sphere” constituted by a shared imaginary of the technical and legal conditions of possibility for their own association. On the basis of fieldwork conducted in the United States, Europe, and India, I argue that geeks imagine their social existence and relations as much through technical practices (hacking, networking, and code writing) as through discursive argument (rights, identities, and relations). In addition, they consider a “right to tinker” a form of free speech that takes the form of creating, implementing, modifying, or using specific kinds of software (especially Free Software) rather than verbal discourse. Continue reading Kelty—Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics

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