How People Are Defining ‘Nerd’

Journalista links to a recent New York Times Magazine article by Benjamin Nugent, “Who’s a nerd, anyway?” The author has a book coming out next spring titled American Nerd: The Story of My People, though this piece focuses on the core thesis of Mary Bucholtz’s nerd research, who has a book of her own on this topic in progress. Bucholtz’s thesis is that nerd identity can be understood through linguistic practice, and it is a “hyperwhite” identity, rejecting the slang of Black culture.

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Checking in After San Diego

I’m finally home after three weeks of travels, having just returned from Comic Con International in San Diego. I’d like to blog about the con a bit more soon, though I suspect I’ll be playing catch-up and contacting potential interviewees for awhile. Here are three items of particular note, at least:

First, this year’s theme seemed to be “waiting in line.” I know that you’ve had to schedule line-waiting time into things for awhile now, but this year was particularly ridiculous, especially because the big events of 2007 were TV-related but the absolute biggest ballroom tends to go to movie-related panels and showings (neither of which, you’ll note, necessarily have anything to do with “comics”). I arrived over an hour early to wait in line for the first event of the day Saturday, a screening of the new Bionic Woman pilot, and I was roughly 5,000th in a line that snaked outside the convention center.

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Checking in from Paris

I arrived in Paris yesterday, after about two weeks in Lisbon. I will miss Lisbon’s tile and cobblestone, hilly streets that challenge those of San Fracisco, humble strangers who speak more English than they think they do, and especially our hosts from Universidade Católica Portuguesa. For more info and for images of our visit to the Presidential Palace, see the page for the Annenberg Scholars Program and the official page of the President of Portugal (photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Photo #6 features the whole group, and photo #4 has a closer shot of me and Mike (my roommate here in Paris) with the First lady.

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Checking in from Lisbon

Portugal is a fascinating place, and I wish I had more time to write about it here at length. I wanted to check in briefly, though, to share some notes that seemed relevant.

I have been trying to get a sense here of the Portuguese image of the geek/nerd and, more specifically, the image of the “hardcore” gamer. I’ll be conducting phone interviews after I get back to the states, but in the meantime, I’m visiting places that sell video games and comics, chatting with people from the Portuguese Catholic University (Universidade Católica Portuguesa, or UCP) and reading whatever I can on Portuguese websites and magazines. (I picking up some Portuguese grammar, spelling, and even the occasional unexpected pronunciation, but mostly I’m just stumbling through thanks to its similarity to Spanish.)

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Fantastic Voyage

This blog will probably be pretty quiet for the next few weeks, as I’m headed to Lisbon, Paris, and San Diego (a mix of research trips and a few cheap days in Paris I couldn’t pass up). I’ll be returning on Monday, July 30th, and will have intermittent email access in the meantime.

Here is something to help keep busy while I am gone: thousands of clickable science-fiction magazine covers, arranged chronologically and by hue (link via Design Observer). Happy July!

Do Rejuveniles Listen to Toddlerclash?

MSNBC has an article up about how “adults are clinging to childish things” (link via The Comics Reporter). The article turns to Christopher Noxon, author of Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up, for an expert opinion.

Plenty of the items mentioned here (and in Noxon’s book) are just generally associated with childhood, though I checked the book out of the library in the first place because a lot of this (including comic book collecting) seems also implicated in geek culture. I’ve often posed a certain question to people as I try to explain what it is that I’m studying: Why is it that certain interests (like collecting comics or playing video games) get stereotyped as geeky, while other interests with fans who are no less fervent (like sports or soap operas) do not? One reasonable answer is that many geeky interests (save for computers) are associated with childhood. This “rejuvenile” stuff presents me with a fair follow-up question: Why is it that certain childish interests get stereotyped as geeky, while other interests do not? Maybe there just haven’t been kickball leagues around long enough to really accrue that kind of meaning yet. Plus, kickball might be a source of unhappy memories for many who were called geeks as kids.

As an aside, hearing about “rejuvenility” reminds me of something I saw a few music bloggers writing about a few years ago. Writing about playful bands like the Go! Team and others prompted one blogger to suggest that a new music movement was underway, which he called Toddlerclash. (Music for Robots also gushed about the Go! Team’s childlike wonder, but didn’t suggest any greater movement). Could be totally unrelated phenomena; blogging about a dissertation kind of feels like putting together big puzzle a few pieces per day, knowing full well that some of the pieces belong to other puzzles.

Some Notes About Transformers

I just saw the new Transformers movie a couple nights ago. I think it was the first time I ever saw a movie admit at the opening that is was based on a series of action figures, rather than trying to claim the other way around. I’ve been stumbling upon a bunch of Transformers links that seemed worth sharing, too, so here you go:

John Swansburg has an article at Slate comparing the new movie to the 1980s animated Transformers: The Movie. He notes that the creators of that movie sheepishly admit in the DVD commentary track that characters were killed off to make room for more action figures (remember: commentary tracks are underutilized resources for research!), but this actually makes for a more thoughtful and affecting story.

Wired has a gallery of “Best Transformers Fan Photos,” and Gizmodo links to its “Fav Transformers Fan Videos,” largely from BotCon 2007.

A Couple Music Links

The Guardian reports that Prince will be giving away a free album in a daily newspaper, and the music industry is none too happy (link via Slashdot). The Entertainment Retailers Association threatened: “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.”

Also, head on over to the New Scientist Blog to help identify the “Top 10 Science Pop Songs” (link via Boing Boing). Suggestions on the table already include songs by the Beastie Boys, Kraftwerk, comic book artist/rocker James Kochalka Superstar, and a handful of nerdcore hip-hop artists.