Randall Munroe Gets It

Minutes before I was going to post what I’d had prepared for this morning, I ran across today’s xkcd web comic, and will likely not be able to get to sleep without writing about it. It features the word autistic used as an insult in much the same way Gizmodo writer Joel Johnson used it in a post last February, a post to which I replied with an open letter here at Shift.  However, as is often the case with xkcd, there is a twist, in this case one that rights every wrong that might be perceived on first reading.

The thrust of the joke is a familiar one and shouldn’t be lost on anybody, though for those who’ve not been following the ongoing implosion of trust and privacy among Facebook users or aren’t familiar with the arguments for open-source software, the references may be a bit obscure.  XKCD’s creator Randall Munroe has for five years now been capturing the zeitgeist of precisely the crowd among whom I’ve long been expecting autism to “join the mainstream,” as I wrote in the open letter to Joel.  This would be those who take to internet culture as ducks take to water and “who need the internet’s other-than-analog means of expression in order to recognize one another, [and] experience themselves as a community….”  Whenever something happens that’s idiosyncratic to a crowd like this, chances are there’s an xkcd comic that has anticipated and commented on that situation already.

For today’s offering then, Munroe contrasts two scenes occurring seven years apart, each containing a brief exchange between the same two characters.  It’s an old joke set in a new context, ringing yet another change on the theme of “how times change.”

And, it casts the character who’s labeled as “probably autistic” as the one who has the last laugh.

How often have we seen that so far?

Direct links here or here.

(The second half of the punchline, for those not familiar with it since childhood, is “… playing ‘My Heart Bleeds for You.'”)

on 05/21/10 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Mark Stairwalt says:

    The world’s tiniest open-source violin, now real: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/06/05/worlds-tiniest-open.html

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