Black and White

Geeks seem to be obsessed with absolutes and black and white.  I will use clips from The Office to demonstrate my point.  I have included Dwight Schrute’s ideas of both the perfect crime and the perfect last meal.  I have also attached his “art of the swap” at the Dunder Mifflin garage sale.  Dwight, by every definition in and out of the book, is a geek.  His obsessions and expertise in the fields of  Battlestar Galactica, beets, and outdoor survival skills, among other disciplines, clearly put him in the “geek” category.

The Geek Leader’s Handbook gives several examples, or contraxioms, on how geeks look at life situations differently than most non-geeks.  I think that one of the most important things that the chapter points out is that geeks are generally of the opinion that there are clearly defined blacks and whites in the world.  When it comes to morals, telling a lie is always evil, for example.  There are moral absolutes in the world that cannot be changed; for geeks, things are the way that they are and that is final.  Another black and white in the world is the art of analysis.  For geeks, things need to be carefully thought out in such a way that their plan cannot be foiled.  No matter what they do, the plan cannot fail, or else the whole situation is a bust.  Every part is carefully analyzed, and the parts of the analysis are generally more important than the ending vision.  For a geek, if all the analytical pieces fall into place, then one does not need to worry about the end result, because all of the pieces will make it all work out.  There has been an interesting influx of geeks into worlds in which they haven’t ventured very far.  One of these fields is Human Resources.  Most HR professionals are people persons (excluding Toby Flenderson, of course) that exist to be a liaison between several groups of people, corporate, middle, management, and those at the bottom.  However, Forbes recently published an article stating that geeks have arrived in HR.  What they mean by this is that Human Resources, a formerly personal part of the corporate life, has become overrun by analytics and numbers.  Now there are formulas to solve problems, in some offices, rather than a face to face interaction.  Similarly, in sports, especially in basketball, analytics has taken over.  Now, coaching and personnel moves don’t rely nearly as much on gut feelings (the chapter would point out that this would be a non-geek way of thinking) anymore.  Rather, basketball has become a numbers game, with new, detailed statistics that tell so much more about the value of a player than points, rebounds, and assists.  Now, many geek analysts can track just how efficient a player is, regardless of their box score, and they can tell how many wins a player actually is worth to their team.  As a sports fan and a bit of a geek myself, I think this is fascinating.  I would much rather look at a player’s WAR (wins above replacement), which gives a number of wins that a player is worth to their specific team, over how many the average player would have, than look at their points per game.  I personally think that this is changing or will change the landscape of sports personnel departments.  I think that it is much easier to visualize a player’s worth based on a number than it is with a gut feeling or a misleading statistic.

For Dwight, his idea of a perfect crime and his perfect last meal both are very carefully thought out plans that are intricate and thoughtful.  The Office is a scripted television show, so obviously, one has to realize that Dwight is the epitome of a geek, and most people are not as extreme as he is.  However, because the show is a mocumentary, each of these scenes are examples of Dwight being interviewed, theoretically without any practice.  It is obvious that the character had thought out these plans before, given that he can name these plans on the spot.  His scheme to swap up to get the best item at the Dunder Mifflin garage sale also reminds the viewers how analytical Dwight is.  He does everything the way that he plans, until Jim interrupts his scheme with the magic legumes.  Dwight, who also happens to be a geek for magical things, is suddenly indecisive.  On one hand, he needs to stick with the plan, and on the other, he wants to see if these legumes really are magical.  Even after he makes his decision to trade a $1,250 telescope for the legumes, saying “I can just go buy another telescope,” it is obvious that he is conflicted about his decision.

Dwight is one of the most analytical characters on television, there are absolutes everywhere, and there is rarely any in between.  He is the perfect example of a geek that rarely sees any gray area in anything, a perfect contraxiom with the world of non-geeks, who see a gray area in virtually anything.

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