Pre-, post-Y2K attitudes are basis of doctoral dissertationgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Y2K -- the bug that snored -- helped
Andrea Hoplight Tapia get her Ph.D.
Hoplight Tapia, now a sociology
lecturer doing post-doctoral work in
science and technology studies at the
University of Arizona, earned her doctorate
in sociology in May from the University of
For her dissertation, "Subcultural
Responses to Y2K," she examined the
various ways in which people self-identified
as being affiliated with three sorts of
subculture groups prepared for and coped
with what turned out to be a major
The people she included in her study
were computer professionals, militia-type
survivalists and millennial Christians who
believe the start of a new millennium is a
Biblical sign of the approaching "end times"
"With all three groups, it was difficult
to gain rapport," Hoplight Tapia said. "I had
to convince them of my sincerity and
She found the people for her study by
using a method called "snowball sampling."
"One person led to another and
another. I contacted several organizations,
particular churches, survivalist and
weapons stores, the New Mexico Militia and
-- for the computer professionals --
several local private and public employers."
She ended up with 15 people in each of
the subcultures and interviewed each of
them twice, pre-Y2K and post-Y2K. "That's
90 interviews," she noted.
Y2K, shorthand for "Year 2000," was
the name for a computer glitch that many
feared might trigger worldwide
technological and societal breakdowns
beginning at the stroke of midnight on New
The nondisaster of Y2K, she found,
didn't change the Y2K-related core beliefs
of any of the three groups. "There was
definitely some disappointment -- I would
say the survivalists were most disappointed
-- but they just reformatted Y2K to fit
their core beliefs," she said.
Nevertheless, Hoplight Tapia said,
"although Y2K had little social impact, it
had incredible relevancy to changes in our
society. Y2K was significant even though
the lights didn't go out."
In a recent telephone interview, here's
how she described the attitudes of each of
Pre-Y2K: "They have a core belief that
the end times as prophesied in the Bible
are coming, and that Y2K was a part of the
end times -- just one more sign God gives
that humanity has gone beyond its means,
that people are too proud, reliant on
themselves and not focused on God."
Post-Y2K: "They believe the end times
are still coming, but that Y2K was 'not as
big as we thought.' This group learned how
to stockpile food, make neighborhood
associations to be be prepared for the next
time and created a Christian network that
hadn't been there before. 'We learned to
rely on technology less and to put more
trust in God.'"
Pre-Y2K: "Their core belief is that there
is a secret cabal of conspirators at the top
of international society trying to destroy
the sovereignty of American citizens. They
believed that Y2K was a planned part of
the conspiracy, a way to take guns and
power from citizens."
Post-Y2K: "They said, 'Perhaps Y2K is
not a part of the conspiracy after all.' But
some of the more paranoid believed Y2K
was intentionally, even mysteriously, a dud
-- that there are bigger and better plans
to take away guns and power. The
survivalists felt they had made an effort to
interact and train for possible scenarios
with the wider community. They felt they
were better trained and prepared as a
result of Y2K."
Pre-Y2K: "They reacted as emotionally
and intensely" to the threat of Y2K as the
other two groups. "The computer
professionals have their own subcultural
set of values and a core belief that
technology can solve all problems. They
were angry at the other two groups for
reacting emotionally, making what was a
problem for technicians into a wider social
problem, which it never should have been."
Post-Y2K: "The computer professionals
feel they were proved right. Technology
did solve technology's problem. Almost all
businesses had seriously looked at their
computer systems because of Y2K, and
brought those systems up to date. So
technology was better off because of
The people she studied -- particularly
the millennial Christians and the survivalists
-- had "very strong responses to Y2K,"
Hoplight Tapia said.
What she was "really looking at is how
subcultures operate -- where they get
their information, what they believe and
don't believe about that information,"
Hoplight Tapia said.
"All of them said they do not believe
what they see on TV or in the newspaper,"
she added. "They believe sources of news
from within their subcultures, and basically
only trust news from other members of
She said her research shows that "our
society is becoming more pluralistic.
Sociologists, politicians, governments
should pay more attention to subcultures
because they are becoming more
influential. They focus inward for sources
of news and what is to be believed."
Increasingly, she said, anybody who
wants to get information to members of
subcultures will have to "work through
those subcultures if they want it to be
-- spider (email@example.com), September 08, 2000
Pre-y2k, there were people who thought the world was going to end, and people who claimed nothing could possibly go wrong.
Post-y2k, both groups seem to think nothing happened --- one, on the grounds that not enough has gone wrong, the other, on the grounds that "nothing happened to me, therefore nothing has happened."
What? What are you saying? That there were people who thought some things would go wrong and those things just might happen to them? No, no, they don't count. Besides, those things that have blown up (paychecks in Washington, DC, for example) -- none of that was due to Y2K, silly -- it was all fixed.
I'll bet those employees of the DC government who did stock up for Y2K are very glad of it now.
-- l hunter cassells (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 08, 2000.