About Mark Stechschulte

I am an anthropology student with some big ideas about where our world is headed. In this blog, I will try to organize my idea into hopefully coherent entries.

And Now, a Blog about Food

Last week, I finally got over my fear of using the phone and called in a lunch order for me and a friend at Girasol, a pupuseria in South Bend.  I usually avoid using the phone, I would much rather text someone or talk in person, but Luz Ferrufino, the Salvadoran woman who owns the restaurant, prefers her customers to call ahead so that she can have their food ready as they walk in the door.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 2.43.43 PM

Google Street View of Girasol

Luz answered the phone quickly, startling me as I was running through my prepared order.

“Hello?” she said, with a slight accent.  It wasn’t obstructive to the conversation, but it was enough to signal the she had not grown up speaking English.

“Um… may i order some pupusas to pick up in half an hour?” I replied.

“Yes, one half hour” she repeated back to me.

“Excellent, what kinds of pupusa do you have?”  A pupusa is a small corn flour wrap, stuffed with either beans, meat, cheese, or a combination of the three.  Served warm, one could eat three or four in one sitting happily.  In fact, Luz offers a special for college students, her most common customers: a small discount if you order three pupusas and a horchata.  She also offers catering, and can make large amounts of pupusas at once in her kitchen.


The Menu at Girasol. Not much, is there?

“Pork, Cheese, and Beans” she said matter-of-factly.  Excellent!  These are the three main varieties, and it was no surprise that Luz offers all three, since pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran food, are the main dish she serves.  She also serves Salvadoran tamales, which are slightly less spicy than the more popular Mexican tamales.

The pupusa has a long history.  They date back to Pre-Columbian times, when the Pipil tribes, who live in the area now known as El Salvador, cooked them using primitive tools over 2000 years ago.  In fact, “pupusa” is a word in the indigenous Pipil language, the name given to the particular dish.(1)  There are variants, depending on where in Central America you are, and one of the more closely related versions is called the gordito.  As you might guess, it is larger, and has more filling.  I could easily eat at least four pupusas in one sitting; I’m not so sure about the gorditas.

Feeling adventurous, I ordered two of each type of pupusa, as well as a horchata.  As she read my order back to me, I nodded, then, remembering I was on the phone, verbally agreed.  After I hung up, I realized that Luz had never once said the name of the restaurant during our conversation; she was casual, as if I had talked with her hundreds of times before.  I was slightly disappointed vaguely by this realization, however, because although I had discussed Girasol with a number of friends (as an anthropology major, you end up eating at a lot of ethnic restaurants), I had never gotten a definitive answer on how exactly to pronounce the name of the place.

The word girasol means “sunflower,” and in the summer, sunflowers line the outside of the blue and white painted building, which sits on Eddy Street just south of Notre Dame’s campus.  As we arrived, a few minutes early (so that I could talk with Luz a bit about the restaurant before I got my food), I noted the small size of the building.  There can’t be much room in there to eat, I thought to myself.

Indeed, when I walked in, I only saw one table, and a small row of barstools off to the side.  The kitchen was connected to this eating area by a large window, through which I saw Luz working away, finishing up cooking our order.  Her husband stood nearby at another frier, holding a spatula.  She called out to me as I walked in, we talked for a short time about the restaurant as she bustled around. A few minutes later, I had my food in a plastic shopping bag, and was on my way out the door, ready to get home and enjoy my meal.


The Interior of Girasol

The pupusas of Girasol are definitely authentic; if you have lived in El Salvador, you will likely recognize them immediately.  Luz gets her ingredients from Chicago, including the special cheese she calls her “secret” ingredient, and the pupusas are served with the traditional side dishes/toppings: cabbage slaw called curtido and a thin red salsa.  When I opened up my bag, each of the ingredients was in a separate container, to preserve the food until I wanted to eat it.  Of course I dug right in, one pupusa at a time, opening up the container, placing it on a plate and placing first a bit of the cabbage slaw on it and then pouring the salsa on top.  It was delicious, and I could tell that each part of the meal was prepared in the pupuseria.

My meal, ready to be unpacked.  The slaw is on the right, and the salsa on the left.  I also got a horchata, visible in the cup at the top.

My meal, ready to be unpacked. The slaw is on the right, and the salsa on the left. I also got a horchata, visible in the cup at the top.

Luz Ferrufino told me that grew up on food like this, in her home country of El Salvador.  On one wall is a painting of a farm house on red and green hills, which she said is similar to her home, where her mother taught her to cook.  She told me a bit about her home, and told me she loved it.  Her mother raised her and her siblings on the farm, raising farm animals. (2)  But what brought her to this Indiana college town?

In 1981, a civil war began in her country, so she moved to America, initially to Virginia, where she met her husband, Martin, also an immigrant from El Salvador.  They married and had four children in Maryland, but couldn’t turn turn down their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, when she got accepted to the University of Notre Dame.

When she came to America, she said that cooking just was natural for her, and could think of nothing else to do but to open up her pupuseria.  And it has done well; Luz and her husband have been living in South Bend since 2005.  Their daughter Elizabeth is a graduate now, and no longer lives at home, but Luz still enjoys running the restaurant, and can’t imagine giving it up anytime soon.

Luz belongs to the largest population of Central and South American people in America today, Salvadoran immigrants.  The population is largest in California and Texas(3), but the Ferrufinos sought opportunity in the Midwest, and found a successful life.  There are other a number of immigrants in South Bend, and Luz has formed a strong community with them, as well as the college students around town.  In the 1980s, a large number of Salvadorans left the country as the country went into political upheaval.

The civil war that Luz Ferrufino left her home to escape is not the most well-documented event in modern times.  In fact, it took me quite a bit of searching before I was able to learn about it in much detail.  And it’s not like it was a small war: over 75,000 people died in a decade(4), between 1979 and 1989, and it wasn’t until 1991 that a new ruling party finally began to settle into place(5).

The few articles I found on the war were small paragraphs in Time or Newsweek from the time period, and there were only a few books relevant to the subject.  Finally, after a detour through Wikipedia (usually a reliable source for the basics of a topic, and often a useful tool for finding related sources), I stumbled upon a short synopsis of the war in the US News & World Report, published near the end of the conflict in 1990.

It reports that the war began in October, 1979, when the military-led government was faced by a coalition of five guerrilla rebel groups.  One of the inciting factors was the eleven distribution of income as a result of the coffee cash crop, which was run by only 2 percent of the people in the country(xxx).  A combination of this, rising food prices, and fraudulent elections led to general unrest in the people, and after a military coup ousted their president in 1979, the United States saw an opportunity to remove a corrupt government and replace it with a more “democratic” one.

Those of you who have heard of Oscar Romero and his life may be familiar with what happened next.  Romero was an archbishop in El Salvador, and he pleaded with the military and American government to stop this conflict before it grew too large, and urged militaries to disobey their orders to kill civilians.  In 1980, he was assassinated, and a week later, his mourners were killed as well.  From this point on, the country of El Salvador descended into a brutal state of chaos.

Both sides of the conflict used death squads and recruited child soldiers, and the conflict was supported by the United States government, which spent over a billion dollars in aid (xxx).  The era was one of fear and political dispute, and the United States supported the war because they feared that a communist influence would win.  Finally, in 1990, the United States pushed for peace, and an unstable peace appeared.  This peace has lasted as well as any peace can so soon after a period of violence, and in modern times America is seeking to avoid more conflict, rather than encouraging it.

Today, Luz still has family in El Salvador, but she is not sure when she will visit again.  It is interesting to reflect on her sense of identity, especially as an anthropologist.  Having grown up in El Salvador, she definitely views herself as from Central America, and would be horribly offended if I questioned the “authenticity” of her food.  But she readily admitted that she tones down the spiciness of her dishes to make them more palatable for the college students who visit and make up a large portion of her clientele.  She has also now spent a large portion of her life in America, and her children went to school as Americans, so in that sense her identity is split.  In addition, the country of El Salvador is very different than it was when she lived there, so in a sense she is displaced, having lost her home.

Throughout this class, we have looked at the history of Latin America through the distribution and spread of food.  In my opinion, Luz has brought a bit of her home here with her, and it is preserved in the food she makes.  The fact that someone from El Salvador can come to Indiana and have no trouble finding the necessary ingredients and tools to make the foods she ate when she was home says something very special about authenticity.  Today, authenticity in ethnic food is less about where one is than it is the environment it is prepared.  For example, I would definitely classify Girasol as an authentic El Salvadoran restaurant than I would a similar restaurant, owned by a person born in Indiana, who may have even visited El Salvador, but serves food in a restaurant decorated like a Fridays, and which also serves tacos and even chicken fingers, or has a kids menu.

Something about Girasol transported me to El Salvador in a way, whether it was the plain, spartan decoration of the pupuseria, or the accent of the woman who gave me change.  Authenticity is a tricky word.  To some, it means just that the food itself must be prepared a specific way.(6)  But with that logic, very little food is prepared authentically, because the vast majority of people use modern tools such as stoves and electricity.  To a strict  “ethnic foodian” a true authentic meal can only be consumed in its country of origin.  Luz does an excellent job of simulating this experience, and indeed, it is very common for places in Central America to serve purely takeaway food.  The El Salvador which Luz Ferrufino left may not exist anymore, but, as it turns out, she brought a small bit of it with her to South Bend.



1. Fouts, Sarah Bianchi. “From Pupusas to Chimichangas: Exploring the Ways in which Food Contributes to the Creation of a Pan-Latino Identity”. M.S. thesis, University of New Orleans, May 2012.

2. Ros, Pablo. “Eatery Offers Central American Food.” South Bend Tribune, September 4, 2007.http://articles.southbendtribune.com/2007-09-04/news/26765649_1_pupusas-el-salvador-pipil.

3. Landolt, Patricia. “Salvadoran Economic Transnationalism: Embedded Strategies for Household Maintenance, Immigrant Incorporation, and Entrepreneurial Expansion”. Global Networks 1, no. 3 (2001): 217-241. Wiley Online Library (14702266).

4. “Can Enemies Become Mortal Friends” US News & World Report 108 (1990): 46

5. “At Last, Hope for Peace in El Salvador” Newsweek, March 24, 1991.  Accessed May 5, 2014.  http://www.newsweek.com/last-hope-peace-el-salvador-201504.

6. Brester, Gary W. et al. “Salvadoran Consumption of Ethnic Foods in the United States”. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2001.



Network Oppression

Today, at 12:26 (Damascus time), every single one of the 84 IP address blocks in Syria became unresponsive, effectively cutting off the entire nation from the Internet.  Almost every single person in the country is without access to the easiest and most modern method of spreading information and connecting with the rest of the world.  A few people, including foreign field reporters, have access to satellite phones, but the ability to communicate with people inside the entire country has been effectively disabled.

Unfortunately, this is a somewhat common occurrence within recent years.  Last year, when Egypt and Tunisia did the same thing within their countries, the UN released an official report condemning blocking internet access as a human rights violation, saying “Indeed, the Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The Internet is a powerful place.  Utilizing it, an entire nation of Minds can feel connected and protected by the rest of the world.  They can organize themselves and change the world.  When cut off from it, the nation becomes vulnerable to oppressors and internal conflict.


What’s in a Name?

I recently built my own computer from scratch. I went to the store and bought all the different parts, by which I mean I spent fifteen minutes carefully looking at the labels and pretending I knew what all the numbers and fancy words meant, and ultimately doing with what the nearest employee told recommended. I took the parts home, somehow got it together and working, and downloaded Steam, a popular gaming community application. I was excited to start playing all the fancy games my new computer could handle, but first I had to make my most difficult decision this far; I had to choose my Steam Name.
This would be my online identity. The name which all of my new online friends would know me by, which would determine the likability of my online identity, and which will be the name I would be known by If I somehow became famous in the gaming community.
I could never use my real name. Nobody does that. The closest I could get to that is a pun or a clever change of my name, but my name doesn’t have much of a nicknaming rhyme to it. I eventually decided on a clever image, of a person trapped in the computer trying to communicate with the outside world. Therefore Imtrappedinabox was created.
The use of pseudonyms online is a trend that I find increasingly interesting. It isn’t really to create an anonymity on the Internet, because people tend to use the same pseudonym in different places, and can even become well known for it. Online legends such as Notch and Jeb of minecraft (as well as most of their staff) are known primarily by their nicknames. Could it be a remnant of the childhood fear that parents instilled when they said, “Never use your real name on the internet, you don’t know who you could be talking to”? Or does it have a deeper meaning, by creating a way to distance their online identity, their “Mind” from their IRL self?
Personally, I believe the former reason progressed from the latter. Even though there is not as much fear among adults as children of their IRL identity being discovered, privacy is still a major concern. The pseudonyms created by the users of the internet are not only a veil of privacy, however, but also a way to express yourself and create a first impression. Many usernames are references to popular shows or pop culture items. Ironically, you can often tell more about a person by looking at his username than you can by his real name.

Subcultures of the Internet – The Socialites

In the past few weeks, I have discovered a website called reddit.  I had heard of it before, and known of its reputation as “the frontage of the internet”, but I did not have enough interest to actually check out the site until its came time to study for my semester finals (and as anyone who has been through school understands,  most of the time you spend “studying” is actually spent doing anything but studying).  Anyway, I checked out the site, and I was amazed by what I found.  Reddit is a site devoted to discussion of… everything.

The front page is a list of the most recently popular threads, discussing news articles, politics, funny cat pictures, and more.  If your interests are more specific, there are “subreddits” for just about anything, from /atheism and /christianity to /movies and /books to /askscience.  Within each thread, redditors discuss the topic, providing a sometimes sobering revelation on what previously seemed to be an incredible discovery, or sometimes the exact opposite, a discussion on why something which sounds minor is actually a major  piece of news.

In my introduction post to this series, I described a group I then called the Posters.  That was a pathetic attempt to put a name to the group which is the most easily seen and traced across the internet.  A much more apt description of this subculture would be “Socialites”, because this group thrives on discussion and debate.  The major character trait of Internet Socialites is skepticism.  Every time a piece of major news is released, within a half hour there is a post discussing the validity and overreaching meaning of the news.  Nothing is taken for face value.  After all, it is amazingly simple to photoshop a picture so it looks like it was taken at the exact moment a man tripped over a ledge, or write a news article slanted to make a specific group sound like the bad guys.  Because of this, everything on the Internet is “disbelieved until proven true”.

But if the Socialites disbelieve everything they see on the Internet, how can any of them trust each other to give true information?  After all, all of them hide their identities behind usernames, and there is no safeguard against one person creating multiple identities.  As it turns out, this anonymity removes more problems of validity than it creates.  Socialites cannot possibly argue from authority, depending on the rest of the community to simply trust they are correct.  They must instead explain their opinions fully in every post they make, and even then any other person has the ability to point out faults in their argument, which the OP (Original Poster) then must respond to in order to preserve his validity.  This instant feedback is perhaps the most useful tool of the Socialites.

I like to imagine what the world would be like if all of academia was presented in this way.  Currently, a researcher submits his or her research to peer review, and revises multiple times before publishing a “completed” article or work.  But this takes a large amount of time, and how completed is it?  Without a doubt, there is some detail or implication which has been overlooked by the researcher and his peers, or a some discovery in a different field which could effect the publication.  And if it’s still faulty, what can be done about it?  The current system of academic publication worked during a time when it was impossible to get instant feedback from all around the world, but today, a researcher could post his raw data on reddit, for example, and instantly have hundreds of other people analyzing it and discovering trends which would have taken the researcher months to do himself.

I believe the only thing holding academia back from making this step to instantaneous feedback is the fact that it would remove the ability for the original researcher to get all the credit.  The Socialites have no problem with staying anonymous, and as a result, they create a hugely dynamic arena of debate which could eventually prove itself as an example for the rest of the world.

Subcultures of the Internet: Covert (CISPA Update)

Since my previous post a week ago, a bill called the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (aka CISPA)  has been passed by the House of Representatives despite an enormous amount of opposition by the public, and will soon be voted on in the Senate.  This bill, intended to increase communication between the government and security agencies on the internet, contains vague language which threatens the entire Internet community.

For one, the entire culture of the Covert will be made illegal, because of their use of email encryption and secure networks such as TOR to hide their identity.  In addition, the government will be able, under CISPA, to monitor any and every online interaction without a warrant, and considering how much of my life is posted on the internet through Facebook alone, this fact is what scares me the most.

I encourage each and every one of you, even (and especially) if you currently do not think this concerns you, to read up on this legislation and decide for yourselves whether or not you can live with this stripping of our online privacy, and if not, contact your representatives about your opposition to this bill.  In the wake of the internet’s outburst over SOPA, it seems that people have lost the energy to fight the seemingly inevitable removal of their privacy and freedom.

I can’t say that I was surprised that this type of legislation has recently become more of an issue.  The use of the internet in Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring has resulted in governments realizing that the Internet has the potential to overwhelm their power.  SOPA and CISPA, along with the five or more other pending legislations, are the government’s attempt to curb this shift in power.  I personally hate to see progress halted for the sake of traditional power roles.

Subcultures of the Internet – The Covert

It is difficult addressing the culture of the Covert without calling up images from popular culture.  Anonymous, by far the most well-known of the hacktivists, is probably the first image that comes to many people’s heads, followed closely by the recent articles concerning the crackdown on child pornography.  Not surprisingly, many businesses and governments despise the covert, because their actions cannot be regulated.  As a result, it is difficult to find a place where they are portrayed in a positive light, without using radical resources.  Both there and “official” articles about them are biased accounts, highlighting a particular aspect of the culture.  To evaluate the entire culture would require admitting that, as an unregulated media, it is simultaneously the most useful and the most dangerous part of the internet.

There are many different names for the habitat of the Covert – the Darknet, the Deepnet, the Dark Fiber, the onion network – and each word has a slightly different definition.  The specifics of each of these do not matter much to me, at least for the moment.  In general, the Covert communicate with each other and share files secretly, making use of programs like those that hackers use to conceal their identities.  In fact, to be able to assure their security, many of them are programmers and hackers.

This entire topic is the source of a great amount of political debate.  In fact, CISPA, a legislation similar to (and as many claim, more dangerous to the online world than)  SOPA, is being voted on this week, and if it passes the Covert will be more vilified than ever.  These multiple attempts to put a legal censor on internet communication in America has fairly recently become prevalent, in response to the internet’s involvement in such movements as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.

The Covert are the people who organized these events, who communicated with each other to organize revolution at the risk of being prosecuted by the powers they were protesting.  The Covert are shielded from their identity, and therefore have the freedom to speak their mind, to tell others about the oppression they have faced.  The Covert are the instigators of political change.  There are Covert in China, publishing posts and communications against the censors of their government, which would most likely execute them if they were caught.

I personally have never been to the Darknet, because I do not fully understand the legal consequences of it, but I have heard accounts of people who have.  The Darknet can generally be divided into two groups: the illegal and the anti legal.  The illegal include the child pornography websites, the black market sites people can visit to order drugs or prostitutes.  The anti legal include the protesters in oppressed countries, those who are crying out for freedoms the only way they safely can.  Who knows, America could eventually become one of those oppressed countries, if and when CISPA and the further restricting legislation which will surely follow is passed.  To pass legislation enabling the governments to fight the illegal will also empower them to silence the anti legals.

The bright side is that silencing the Covert is like taping a screen to prevent air from coming in.  No matter how much tape you put on, the air will always find its want through the screens.  It will just be more difficult for a time, until they adapt.

Subcultures of the Internet – Hackers

It’s easy to tell in a conversation when a person has not had much experience with the internet culture.  For one thing, when I talk to them about my research into hacking and cybercultures, they will ask me if I know any “hackers”.  Sure, these people may know how to use their email and Facebook, but besides using Google to search for “how to convert miles to kilometers” they know very little about navigating the internet, or about the people who control it.

Nobody on the internet ever refers to themselves or another person as a hacker; it just isn’t considered appropriate.  That isn’t to say that there is no such thing as a hacker.  On some level, every programmer has the ability to “hack”.  But the popular idea of the term hackers is grossly overused.  For example, when somebody claims that their Facebook page has been “hacked”, usually that means that they left their account open and somebody took advantage of a logged in account.  In reality, it is incorrect to say that any profile has been hacked, but rather compromised when a server was hacked, or when their desktop was hacked.

When I talk about the “hacker culture”, then, by that I mean a culture that is very similar in ways to that of computer programmers, though much more corrupt.  While the focus of the programmer culture is creation of software, programs, and systems, the focus of the hacking culture is on acquiring information and data, and using it to gain power.  Because of this, the hacking culture is very secretive, to protect its own secrets from those who could take advantage of them.

“Hactivists”, such as Anonymous, are prime examples of modern-day mainstream hackers, but their methods are unlike most of the hacker culture.  Hackers do not crave attention; in fact, the mark of a professional hacker is that nobody knows he exists.  This becomes problematic when attempting to join the hacker culture; how do you join a community which claims to consist of… nobody?  Even more problematic, how can you have presentations at hacking conventions such as Black Hat and DEFCON without a community that wants to make itself known to the public?

The answer lies in euphemisms.  DEFCON and Black Hat both consist of presentations and papers concerning the security of systems from the point of view of a system defender.  While there is the unspoken assumption that many of the people there are hackers themselves, and may use the convention as a way to learn methods to use in illegal or at least covert operations, present and future tenses are never used when discussing hacking.  This unique trait is the major thing which separates the hackers from the programmers.


Subcultures of the Internet – Programmers

Recently, I have ben trying to teach myself some coding languages.  I took a few weeks of C++ and used Matlab in high school, but the most I could do by the end of the year was create a few shapes or a graph, and maybe a button or two appear on the screen.  But because of the research I have been doing, I have realized how important it is that anybody who uses a computer understands at least a bit of what they are doing.

Programmers are a very special group of computer users.  Their entire career depends on the internet, and the computers used to access it.  Don’t get me wrong, the Internet is only a small part of a programmer’s life, but it is the major method by which their “products” – namely software – are spread.  Programmers know how the internet works.  Better than any of the casual computer users, who basically skim the surface of their computer’s capability, programmers delve into the coding and machinations of their computers, often building their own computer from parts (gamers do this as well) in order to optimize speed or performance.

The programmer culture is very logical and precise, because the computer languages are just as demanding.  Of all the other cultures, programmers are the only with their own unique language, or in reality plural languages.  Programmers use these languages to create programs which enable them to better utilize their computers, to get the most efficiency out of what they are trying to do.  There are jokes within the culture that a programmer would rather spend hours creating a program to organize a set of files than to spend fifteen minutes and organize them manually, because “next time, I can just run the program”

One specific examples pop into my head: when I think of programmers, I think of video game programmers, who create and modify computer games.  These programmers include many gamers, obviously, and the two groups are interdependent. For example, Minecraft, a computer game, was created by a programmer name Markus Persson, who calls himself Notch (It is extremely common, in many ways expected, for both the gamer and programmer culture, along with some others, to create a pseudonym which you then use any time you go online).  Notch created Minecraft on a whim, posting a video of a world-generation program he created on Youtube, and after a large amount of interest, developed his program into a game which today has one 25 million players.  He has a small staff still, and remains in close contact with his community, in what many would regard as the optimal position as a programmer.

Notch represents to me the typical programmer.  He created his program on a whim, and thrives on his creation.  Creation is a key trait which separates programmers from hackers.  The programming culture is constantly creating, whether they are editing and streamlining existing code or starting from scratch and creating a completely new program.  Programmers are often gamers, because of a shared obsession with computers and programs required in both cultures.

Subcultures of the Internet — Gamers

I sat down to write the blog post on Gamers yesterday, my mind full of ideas and messages I wanted to convey about the gaming subculture of the internet, put my hands on the keyboard, and sat. For about twenty minutes, I couldn’t figure out how to start. Honestly, I was bewildered. The ideas were definitely there, rolling around in my head like a ball of yarn, but I couldn’t find an end to start from. Every time I would pull at an idea, picking out a promising thread, I would find that it was actually a loop in the middle of the roll, on both ends fraying into a thousand different threads. I had no point to start from.

I wanted to explain in a single eloquent, concise post how gamers are actually the most creative and in many ways the most intelligent of the subcultures of the internet, and are practiced in seeing an issue or puzzle from multiple different perspectives, a skill which has become increasingly useful and necessary in the real world today. I would show that immersing one’s self into a fantasy world which they must save, rather than being a negative action which is useless to the real world, can actually result in a very positive thing. I wanted to describe how Gamers have a close bond with one another, a bond which in many cases surpasses national and cultural boundaries, creating a unified group identity. Because of this identity, I would show, using many references that I had collected during my research (I call it research, but I admit I am an aspiring gamer myself, and I merely bookmark things I find which could be relevant to this project), Gamers have become a culture based on mutual cooperation and charity.

Realistically, the amount of writing needed to convey everything I want to say about Gamers to the extent I would prefer would fill a novel. I could say the same about each of these subcultures. When I started this project, I had no idea how difficult it would actually be.

Eventually, I am sure I could churn out a fairly passable description of how Gamers are admirable in their novel approach to relationships. However, the best description of a Gamer cannot be found in a block of paragraphs, written by a professional. It is found in the monumental creations made by players on Minecraft servers, by the heroic tales of teamwork and accomplishment by elves, deathknights, and dwarves in World of Warcraft, in the dedication and focus of those who achieved high scores in games such as Pac-man, and in every other video game ever made. Gamers are the artists of the Internet, and without them, the internet would be a shadow of what it is today.

Subcultures of the Internet: Introduction

I have decided to begin a series of posts detailing some of the major subcultures of the Internet.  Many of them overlap, as the Internet is a place without any actual borders, but each subculture has its own behaviors and distinct set of rules.  In addition, as each subculture depends on the Internet for their existence, each one is threatened equally by any sort of attempt to control the Internet.  However, their responses to a threat differ greatly.

This post is an introduction to some of the groups I will discuss, although most likely there will be more than just these few.


Gamers:  Gamers are, obviously, the people who use the Internet and computers primarily for games.  Examples of gaming communities include Steam and the “gaming” subreddit.  This group is the most reluctant to address the threats to the freedom of the internet, and will not unless their gaming life is directly threatened.

Programmers:  Closely related to Gamers and Hackers, Programmers include those who create games, operating systems, and other programs.  Programmers are the most knowledgeable of the internet and how it works, along with Hackers, but their efforts are mostly focused on creation, while Hackers focus on infiltration and modification of programs.  The welfare of Programmers is at greatest risk if the Internet is threatened, because a restriction on the freedom of the Internet restricts their capabilities and could affect their career.  Programmers and Hackers are the first to recognize a threat to the Internet, and can understand the full implications of the threat.

Hackers:  The group most stereotypically seen as a danger to the IRL (In Real Life) world.  This group includes online political activist groups such as Anonymous, as well as the other, less well-known groups which work in secrecy.  Hackers focus on working around the rules of the Internet, searching for loopholes or opportunities for profit, which they then take advantage of.  Hackers are the most active in response to a threat to the Internet, taking action by fighting back online.

The Covert:  The actual greatest danger to the IRL world, this group contains the users who browse the Internet using secure, untraceable connections, using the Darknet and networks such as TOR to explore sites which are not reachable by google or other search engines.  A number of these sites contain illegal content, such as child pornography.  There can also be found websites where one can purchase illegal goods, such as drugs or pirated media.  The users of the Darknet are the most difficult to stereotype, because of the security and anonymity they surround themselves with.  Their response to a threat to the Internet is usually either in secret or through the actual identities of these users, usually in another subculture.

Posters: The most interdependent of the groups, Posters use boards such as reddit, tumblr, and blogs to create discussions and communities.  This group is the most prolific, as an enormous amount of information is posted every day, and as a result the most difficult to keep up with.  Posters usually specialize to a specific messageboard or forum.  Posters work with Trolls to initiate a discussion of any threat to the Internet, allowing other Users to be educated about the threat.

Trolls: This group is identified as the users who trick other users or purposefully annoy them.  Creations of this group include the Rick-roll, the “trollface”, and prank websites.  Although his group is often despised because of its disruption of organization, it is nevertheless a great influence on the Internet as a whole.  Trolls would respond to a threat to the Internet by reverse psychology, acting like a radical supporter of the threat and inciting argument by posting as the “devil’s advocate”, letting the Posters create a discussion of the threat and the way to oppose it.

The Passives: The group most often overlooked, this is perhaps the largest and potentially the most powerful group.  Every other group depends on this group, the masses of casual Internet users, to use the internet and “vote” with their views on a page.  In the case of a threat, the goal is to “mobilize” the Passives and create a mob which has the power of numbers to eradicate the threat.