I was going through this article:


Which got mee thinking is programming a subculture?

After the a while I started thinking it really hard, and if you go really in depth this is a very complex and interesting question to ask.

YOu can even ask yourself if (heavy) internet (social) users are an subculture and programmers a culture within.

I think it might be an interesting discussion, hope you like it!


I linked the wiki article because it might be a good baseline, maybe you can base you answer on Ken Gelder´s proposal to distinguish subcultures. But it should be based on a little bit more that intuition.

Thanks in advance!


5 Answers 5


No, programmers are not, in themselves a subculture. There isn't a sense of belonging shared among programmers as a group, or really any of the elements of a shared identity. However -- and this is a big "however" -- a not-insignificant number of programmers are members of hacker culture.

Hackers have a shared identity, shared rituals/holiday, shared humor, a distinct shared language, they differentiate themselves from other cultures, have their own folklore, and modes of dress, foods, habits, etc.

Hacker culture is not the same as programmer culture. Many programmers don't grok hacker culture at all, and being a hacker isn't really defined by the activity of programming itself. It's more about the mind set.

You may be wondering why I call hackerdom a "culture" rather than a "subculture". Part of being a "subculture" is being somehow distinct from the "dominant culture". However, hackers don't have a specific term for non-hackers, despite having developed an expansive distinct vocabulary. This is because the hacker doesn't consider him/her-self not to be part of other cultures due to his/her membership in the hacker culture. It is not only acceptable that each hacker also belong to one or more other cultures, and that one hacker's "other" culture(s) may conflict with a fellow hacker's "other" culture(s), but it is expected, and believed by some to be the reason hacker culture exists.

One 20th century definition of "culture", however, is a much better match: "the universal human capacity to classify and encode their experiences symbolically, and communicate symbolically encoded experiences socially". Hackers share a common way of classifying and encoding experiences, a shared symbology and language, and a shared way of communicating all of these things within the hacker social group.

"Programmers" as a group doesn't seem to fit either mold to me.


P.S. - I registered just to answer this question, but since I am new I can't link all of my references here. Please see my comments for URLs (if the system lets me do that).



No. Programmers are no more a subculture than engineers, doctors, or lawyers. If professions were actually subcultures then the word wouldn't mean very much.

Let's look at the 6 criteria on the Wikipedia page:

1. through their often negative relations to work (as 'idle', 'parasitic', at play or at leisure, etc.);

This is obviously not the case. Most decent programmers work reasonably hard and enjoy it to some extent.

2. through their negative or ambivalent relation to class (since subcultures are not 'class-conscious' and don't conform to traditional class definitions);

Most programmers are middle-class, so this doesn't even really apply.

3. through their association with territory (the 'street', the 'hood, the club, etc.), rather than property;

Unless the internet counts as territory, I'd have to say no to this as well.

4. through their movement out of the home and into non-domestic forms of belonging (i.e. social groups other than the family);

A lot of programmers are on the anti-social side but again, and even the internet doesn't really apply here because everybody uses social networks now.

5. through their stylistic ties to excess and exaggeration (with some exceptions);

Most definitely not the case with programmers.

6. through their refusal of the banalities of ordinary life and massification.

Pretty much every programmer I know enjoys the casual comforts of beer, pizza, and computer games.

Verdict: No, programming isn't a subculture. It's a career. What you do for a living has very little to do with how your philosophy on society.

  • I like you answer but i´m going answer toy your answer with a different perspective.
    – Trufa
    Oct 16, 2010 at 4:10
  • Those items were listed in the wikipedia article as defining characteristics of countercultures, not subcultures in general.
    – HedgeMage
    Oct 16, 2010 at 22:33
  • @HedgeMage: You're incorrect. Read it again, particularly the very last sentence before the list.
    – Aaronaught
    Oct 17, 2010 at 1:34
  • Aaronaught, my apologies you are correct: I seem to have skimmed past a sentence.
    – HedgeMage
    Oct 17, 2010 at 5:10

Well, it's almost 11pm on Friday. An I'm answering your question...

I think it's a subculture with a lot of members. Similar to the hippy/counter-culture movement in the late 60's.

  • good comparison!! sometimes this SE is addictive!
    – Trufa
    Oct 16, 2010 at 2:58

Yes it can be. I've been involved in the demo scene in early 90s, building a diskmag called Imphobia talking about demos parties. The demo scene is defined like this:

The demoscene is a computer art subculture that specializes in producing demos, which are non-interactive audio-visual presentations that run in real-time on a computer. The main goal of a demo is to show off programming, artistic, and musical skills.

So yes I think programming is a subculture

  • What do you think about HedgeMedge answer that (I think) was basically saying that programming was too broad and too different peoples to be a subculture?
    – n1ckp
    Oct 23, 2010 at 20:06
  • I did not write the quote above, however I actively participated to the demo scene, and I can confirm it is a cultural phenomenom
    – user2567
    Oct 23, 2010 at 20:14
  • 2
    Well demoscene is clearly a subculture, but that doesn't make programming in general a [sub]culture - in the same way hip-hop being a subculture doesn't make music in general a [sub]culture. Oct 23, 2010 at 21:24

Maybe. I think there is programming culture such as famous programming figures. Not all programmers belong to it. It is also closely related to computer nerd culture.

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