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Socially inept, bespectacled – and international

 

If you follow memes, play MMORPGs and have an obsession about new technological devices, then you might be a geek.

The ’geek’ has long been stereotyped as the socially inept, bespectacled, skinny kid content spending long hours at a computer.
”I think that a geek is a person who holds a strong interest outside the societal norm”, says Mark Halmagiu, electrical engineer.
But gone are the days when interests outside the societal norm left one isolated. The internet provides a global medium for social networking, connecting people with similar interests.
”I spend 8 or more hours on the internet a day. I can’t avoid using it”, Ilkka Turunen, a software engineer, says
Miika Kasnio, also a software engineer, agrees.
”I spend between 4 and 12 hours online a day: gaming, browsing and chatting to friends”.

Online gaming is just one example of how social interaction is achieved.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like EVE-online and World of Warcraft allow gamers to interact with numerous others in a virtual world regardless of  which country they actually come from.
The realms of fantasy and science fiction seem the epitome of geekness. Fantasy and sci-fi provide alternative realities in which many people immerse themselves perhaps attempting to escape mundane real life. An amalgamation of these genres can be found in anime and manga. The Japanese media have taken the world by storm, and are not new to Finland.
”I suppose the realism of the characters, that the animated medium lets the artist express more imagination than any real film and the different style of story-telling,” says Turunen.
”What really attracts me to anime/manga is the beauty and delicacy of things, like looking into a person’s soul. It’s hard to describe, but it’s the Japanese spirit. It’s similar to Finnish spirit”, Helinä Turunen, information system science, comments

Perhaps these similarities are what make anime and manga so popular in Finland. Since anime officially arrived in Finland with 1990’s TV shows such as Pokemon, the cartoons have gained outstanding popularity. This is evident in the active clubs of university towns. Oulu’s anime club regularly holds manga reading sessions; Tampere organizes anime shopping expeditions to Estonia and Turku is home to the most avid cosplayers.
This summer Jyväskylä will host the Finncon 2010 festival expecting over 5 500 participants. The organizers aim to explore the history of sci-fi and fantasy in Finland through film, literature and anime.
Unlike many other conventions, Finncon is not only about cosplay competitions and commercial retail; the festival also hosts a research conference with leading figures from Finland and abroad sharing ideas to promote multi-disciplinary sci-fi and fantasy research thus internationalising the Finnish research network. Esteemed guests include Professor Laiho Beach, Pat Cadigan and Sari Peltoniemi. The Gathering, a mini festival during Finncon, focuses on the Starwreck movie. Participants will be able to meet the producers from Energia, the creative force behind the Wreckamovie industry, and discuss the new film Iron Sky.

Disregarding social stigma, geeks today unashamedly indulge their less mainstream interests. Besides, as Mark Halmagiu puts it, the stereotypical geek is perhaps 0,1–2% of the population.
”The rest of us are just in stealth mode, pretending to be normal. In the end, perhaps, everyone is a geek in their own way.”

Suzanne van Rooyen

Finncon 2010 will be held in Jyväskylä from July 16th to 18th. For more information go to 2010.finncon.org.

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