Theory: Can Geeks be Humanists?
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Presentation for Can Geeks be Humanists?
Chair: Marcia Tannor, panel for 95th Annual College Art Association Panel,
New York, February 2225, 2007

Paper, "On Can Geeks be Humanists,"
for Art in the Age of Technological Seduction,
New Media Caucus Journal, January 2007


On the Geek as Humanist

What I believe is implied by Marcia Tanner’s question and its positioning of the geek and the Humanistic as opposite is the following:
  1. A Geek is one who values technology above all. The obsessional embrace of technology by geeks is a technocratic embrace, derived from an adulation of the power of technology for its own sake. By positing it as something against the human, Tanner reminds us that today, technology emerges radically from the contemporary bureaucratic military-industrial state and corporatized consumerism. These geeks must therefore be against the human, perhaps therefore “post-human”, and by implication, Post Modern in the theoretical sense.

  2. Humanism, as posited by Tanner, is geekdom’s inverse. It must therefore be outside of and in contradiction to the recent technology boom and therefore somewhat old fashioned, outmoded and perhaps even Romantic - the ideal of culture adopted in the 19th and first part of the 20th century. Humanism in this context would fall on the side of (traditional) artistic practice and implies placing the individual artistic voice at the center of its value system.
After considering this, I came to the understanding that I reject both terms and would therefore like to propose a different dialectic, one implementing two other terms BOTH of which are associated with theoretical discussion: the one social and the other ontological. I think of this social discourse as emerging from the Marxist and politically motivated sociological theory of the Frankfurt School, and connected to design theory and the discussion of everyday objects. I believe this socially oriented discourse is related to New-media art. On the other hand I associate the ontological approach of the French school of Deconstruction, influenced by Freud and Derrida, with Contemporary art. These philosophies are two different offshoots of secular humanism, BOTH “post human” and Post Modern but in different ways, different enough to indicate the diverging approaches of two distinct communities.