Geeks and Autism

At some point I will write a more detailed review, but Jordynn Jack’s book Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks (University of Illinois Press, 2014) contains a thoughtful and rigorous study of the purported relationship between computer culture and  Asperger’s Syndrome.   Her primary focus is on popular media diagnoses of celebrated Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, but her larger argument about role of anecdotal evidence in framing Asperger’s as a “geek syndrome” is very relevant to the historical argument I make in both The Computer Boys book and my  “Beards, Sandals, and Other Signs of Rugged Individualism” article.  I wish that I had been aware of her discussion of the relationship between Simon Baron-Cohen’s work on Extreme Male Behavior and narratives about technology when I was doing my research.  Although I am sure that Jordynn Jack would not define her book in terms history of technology, I hope that my fellow historians discover it.  In my mind it is one of the most important contributions to our understanding of contemporary technology culture that I have read in a long while.

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