From a rhetorical perspective, this article is an extremely interesting
exercise in the construction of legitimacy. Let’s dig in. I could
write a fucking book on the tropes here, so I’ll keep this intentionally
brief (he said, writing a wall of text).
We open with an analogy which serves to set the rhetorical frame of the
author’s argument and which mirrors the various elements of the
article’s thematic focus: an open-bordered Japan receives an influx of
immigrants, and we’re asked to sympathize with the desire of a
hypothetical Japanese manager to hire people who are culturally similar
[I]s it unfair to expect Japanese managers to hire people whose
culturally acquired qualities are likely to cause discord in a group
whose established social norms are especially focused on harmony?
As with any bit of analogous reasoning, we should ask ourselves two
To what degree does the source domain (i.e, the hypothetical Japanese
manager) correspond to the target domain (i.e., “hackers”)?
How does the choice of source domain affect the way we think about
the target domain?
Note also that the author does not use a generic hypothetical manager as
her source domain, which indicates that her choice of Japan and borders
are rhetorically significant.
Her example, then, contains many aspects which do not correspond well to
the target domain.
Japan is an ethnically homogeneous nation whose population has
continuously inhabited a set of islands since pre-history (i.e., >40K
Japan is a Westphalian state, with internationally-recognized
sovereignty over its land, water, and citizens.
Japanese people have a distinct language, a distinct syncretic
religion (Shinto), and a common history of self-governance of almost
“Hackers” as a group of people, one must agree, do not share these
qualities. The author chose Japan because – intentionally or otherwise
– she is attempting to construct the legitimacy of hacker nativism.
By asking the reader to engage in this thought experiment, the author is
– intentionally or not – asking us to think of hackers as the rightful
citizens of a nation-state. Not only that, but a nation-state which is
famously homogeneous, with less than 2% of Japan’s population having
come from another country. The author, in short, is begging the question
that hackers are the native, sovereign inhabitants of tech.
Obviously I don’t think they are, and I think the author’s history of
computing requires the erasure the small army of professional engineers
and scientists from government, business, military, or academic groups
who we can thank for inventing things like transistors, integrated
circuits, packet-switching networks, the internet, email, the World Wide
Web, etc. etc. etc. But I’ve already written far more than I should
“[“brogrammers” and “geek feminists”] are latecomers barging in on a cultural space that was once a respite for us, and we don’t appreciate either group bringing its cultural conflicts into our space in a way that demands we choose one side or the other. That’s a false dichotomy, and false dichotomies make us want to tear our hair out.”
I really like that quote, puts into words what I haven’t been able to thus far.
The “latecomers” game is tired one. There’s two things:
1) Many of the things you see happening come from inside the community. For example, lots of the “geek feminist”-projects are run and supported by many people that have been in the nerd culture for a long while.
2) It’s not the first time I see this line of argumentation. I used to run discussion boards for underground music and the game of “the new people are late, they don’t know about the real thing” is a standard trope. It’s a generation change and the new generation prefers things differently. We laugh about conservative politicians and their inflexible views, but at the same time are just the same.
Fair ‘nuff. Part of the reason I like that quote is it sums up my feelings about how I feel like an outsider in my cultural space as these battles are raged all around me. I’m not xenophobic to people joining this community but I can’t be blind to their effect on it.