More Than Meets The Eye

Over at Gizmodo, reader Joachim Bengtsson pretty aptly sums up the comments thread following a video of people in homemade Transformers costumes (posted in the “Too Much Free Time” category):

It amazes me that nerds seem to be so ashamed of being nerds and of other nerds. Whenever we see anything wicked which happens to also be very nerdy, we always have to say, “What a nerd! But cool!”. I wonder what’s up with that.

Anyways. Very very cool.

Good to see I’m not the only one wondering about that kind of thing.

This kind of connects with something I’ve been thinking about lately: in 2005, the SciFi Geekforce Report (commissioned by the SciFi channel) suggested that 6.9 million people in the UK self-identified as geeks. (One of many summaries of the report can be found here.) That’s just over 10% of the UK’s current population, at least according to the first hit on Google for “UK Population.” If it’s roughly the same proportion in the US, we’re talking another 30 million geeks on this side of the pond alone.

Why is this related? Well, I feel like even if you add up everyone doing cosplay (like the Transformers people above), or machinima, or fan fiction, or any of the other things that fan studies scholars tend to celebrate in fan culture, you’re still not going to be anywhere close to the combined 37 million self-identified geeks in the US and UK. Consider, too, that only the most vocal minority of Gizmodo’s millions of readers actually bothers to leave a comment, and none of the comments left so far say anything to the effect of, “Good job! I like making costumes like this too.”

For me, this raises a question: if as many of tens of millions of people aren’t doing these things, what is it that they are doing that’s so “geeky”? (My tentative answer: they’re checking out links of “geekier” people on blogs and reassuring themselves that they’re geeky enough to be in awe, but not so geeky that they’d do this stuff themselves.

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