Words. So hard sometimes.
I think I usually manage to pick the right ones and put them in the right order, but sometimes orange water gibbon bucket and plaster.
And sometimes I just don’t have time for many words. I set up a Tumblr recently, as a place to be less wordy. I wanted to use easternblot as name there, but that was taken: Someone took it a few days earlier! Although annoying, I actually enjoyed that, because it meant that someone else agreed that it’s a perfect screen name, even though it’s a thing that doesn’t exist. (See bottom of this page for what it means.)
My Tumblr is transferbuffer.tumblr.com (because a transfer buffer is a medium you need to make a northern/southern/western blot, so it’s probably also useful for an eastern blot) and I’ve been looking it to repost things from here so that Tumblr people can see it, and to find new content there.
Speaking of responses to that video, mine did not go over well with everyone. Apparently I’m arrogant for pointing out that “not liking science” is part of some high school clique’s social norms (including the one the video seemed to be aimed at) and that maybe it should therefore not be presented as having anything to do with *any* social group, so that the people within those groups who do like science don’t feel like they’re disappointing their peers. I’m not on some sort of social mission to do away with these social circles – they’re just *there*. And it’s a reality that within that system there are groups who explicitly don’t like science. The Facebook page for “I hate science” has over thirteen thousand members, most in the range of 13-17. It’s THERE. It’s REAL. High school kids are explicitly stating their hatred of science on a social network – the same place where they say which bands they like and what they bought last week – and probably invite their friends to join. It’s part of a culture. Imagine being their friend and actually *liking* science? That’s what I was trying to talk about. I mentioned fashion/make-up because that was the group the ad was targeting, but within other self-defined groups (based on athletic interests or music choice, for example), learning and academics are considered equally uncool. That doesn’t mean that these kids are not interested in science – it just means that in their social group that is considered something to be embarrassed about. (Just like I got mocked by *my* friends for liking comedies, which is why I picked that hook for my post. We’re *all* in particular social circles where people have expectations of us that we don’t always meet.)
If someone who likes science is surrounded by people who insist that it’s not cool (even though they secretly might like science too) I don’t think you can make those kids feel any better about their interest in science by suggesting that maybe it actually is cool. As if an ad would be able to overthrow the opinion of their peers. (See also this study I mentioned in my previous post.)
But even the people who got what I meant in that part of the post stumbled over one particular word: geek. Or geeky.
That word itself has such a stigma. I used it to refer to people who like learning new things, like to find out how things work, get excited about documentaries and books. That is something that I think is a trait many people have, in many different circles – just like many people like cheese, regardless of who their friends are - but as soon as you try talking about this, it becomes a label again. “Eager to learn” is the shortest alternative phrase I can come up with. There doesn’t seem to be a non-offensive term to describe that trait. “Geek” is the least offensive one these days, when it has actually become sort of cool. It’s still offensive to some people, though, and in Angela Saini’s book “Geek Nation” she mentions getting similar reactions from people who didn’t like the word.
But if not “geek”, then which word to use? Nerd? Boffin? Swot? Those are all worse. It’s interesting that all the one-word phrase used to describe someone who likes to learn are offensive, because it shows that liking to learn has a social status attached to it, and that is exactly what I was trying to talk about.