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What is Lebanon’s Geek Nation?

Geek Arcade

Culture

What is Lebanon’s Geek Nation?

With Geek Fest just around the corner, we look at what a geek is, and try to specifically see what being a Lebanese geek is like.

Geeks are us

If you look for the origins of the term“geek” on Google, the results are bit concerning:

Overtime, the term “geek” has taken several definitions – from people specialized in computer programming, to those interested in scientific matters (including science fiction), branching out later to other fields. Thankfully, the definition given by Urban Dictionary is the one that now prevails: “One who passionately engages in one or more things to extreme levels.”

Indeed, modern geekness is a very wide universe that can include all manners of fandom. As Mounir Ctoueg, managing partner at Tell(tale) (the organizers behind the Geek Fest), says, “people don’t necessarily know how to define geek. It’s not a profile, it’s a behavior […] Everybody knows a film geek, a music geek and a game geek. Everybody is a little bit of a geek in some shape, way or form. Some people just don’t know it yet.”

For this reason, Geek Fest will be structured around three major groups: film, music and gaming, while also focusing on “geek speak”, addressing one of the fastest-growing aspect of geek culture: comics; and bringing together slightly more siloed niche topics such as board games, drawings and VR. “That’s why the best way to describe Geek Fest is not to say it’s an event, it’s a platform where all things geek can live,” says Ctoueg.

Geeks on a budget

The massive growth in usage of this term over the recent years is partly due to the success of the Marvel movies, but also to a combination of societal factors: improved access to information online, the surge of social media and the possibility to share one’s passions easily there, along with a commercial potential that spurs corporations’ interest.

Yes, they are willing to spend a lot on movie tickets, special apparel, collectibles and much more.Take the success of pop culture figurines brand Funko: its sales in 2018 surged by 33% year on year to reach$696.1 million. Its most expensive product on sale at the 2018 San Diego ComiCon (the Clown makeup Dumbo)came with a $5,000 price tag.

That’s not to say that consumerism defines geekiness. You can be a geek and indulge yourself without crushing your finances. In fact, good part of Lebanon’s pop-culture community resorts to pirating movies, music, online comics… And that doesn’t take away any of their ingenuity.

Either way, geek has become mainstream, if not the new cool.

Now, somehow, everyone wants to be a geek, and Lebanon is no exception.

A Lebanese geekdom

Lebanon has its own pop-culture community and its diverse, to say the least.

Lebgeeks.com, for example, is an online platform created in 2004 for technology geeks. Up until 2014, it organized IRL (in real life) meetups and it set up a series of talks for coders in 2013. Today, its forums are what remains active, addressing a wide range of topics from bitcoin to games exchanges.

Online communities like Nerd Fun Lebanon reach out to those who “like learning new things in history, science, culture, psychology.”As for Geek Express, it’s originally a student initiative that now defines itself as “a complete online & offline platform offering kits, workshops and online tutorials for kids and teens in Engineering, Technology & Arts.” And of course, its team presents itself in comics terms.

The establishment of stores like the Multiverse in Hamra, The Comic stash, and Giftmania Collectables that offer a variety of products addressing the pop-culture community and organize games events and competitions, is also a sure sign that pop-culture is in the ascendancy in Lebanon.

In the end, Ctoueg summarizes it best: “Some have companies, some are individuals who have created movements and others are simply interested in specific things and are incredibly advanced in their knowledge […] It’s not a coincidence that geeks have inherited the Earth. They are the ones who run the world right now.”

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