Geeks in Philadelphia make their mark.
But most Philly geeks have no time for such paranoid snobbery.
"The scene is really inclusive," says Geoff DiMasi, "photographers, writers, engineers, people who just like to make stuff--and the software ties things together. There's a real mash-up going on."
"A geek," says Hannah Sassaman, "is someone who is totally stoked. Someone who is fearless in his or her love. What is more exciting than someone who, without pretence and without shame, is really excited about something?"
Philly is totally a geek town, she adds. "The Roots used to be called the Square Roots. Did you know that? They came out of the Philly school system. Talk about Philly pride? Then you've got to talk about Philly geek pride."
But as for the widely held perception that Michael Nutter is the ultimate geek mayor, Sassaman has her doubts.
"Right now a lot of people think City Hall is more interested in fixing breaks for big corporations than in helping the real dens of creativity in this city. They're destroying the libraries that made Michael Nutter a super-geek in the first place."
If there's a philosophical fault line in Philly geekdom, it might be personified by the activist Sassaman and the entrepreneur DiMasi.
But it's not ideological.
"More power to them, what the fuck ever," says Sassaman, when asked about the bootstrap capitalist geeks.
And DiMasi is a political progressive (most Philly geeks seem to be) who was active in his South Philly community association until he decided that encouraging startups was a more effective way to change the world.
Despite his experiences with punk rock, DiMasi hopes the new wave of geek somehow avoids being co-opted, diluted and effectively trashed by the big bad corporations and that the successful fruits of this wave of bootstrap capitalist enterprises will remember their roots and nourish the culture that gave them life.
"I think Philly geek has two meanings," says Sassaman. "We as Philly geeks really love Philly too, and the communities here and the work that has to be done here. And I think there's a huge community of people in Philadelphia who'll hold a meeting at their house about saving the farm at 48th and Brown and then, like, crochet a dot matrix Super Mario character. I mean that's the sort of person I want to talk to."
Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died two years ago today of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.
PW's Summer Guide 2014