Reflecting on NCA 2007

I spent the better part of last week in Chicago for the National Communication Association 2007 conference. This was my first NCA, and I wasn’t sure how to approach it: It’s big, and, unlike ICA, there isn’t a dedicated group for people interested in game studies. Actually, there were a few gaming-related panels, but they were largely scheduled in conflict with other gaming-related panels, which was a little frustrating. I tried to make it to what I could, though, and I did see some interesting talks that I thought I might reflect on here briefly.

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Links Thanks to the Worldwide Nerdy News Network

I’d like to direct your attention to a video of the Cal marching band performing video game music (also linked to and called nerdy here and here). I got tips for this from Jordan (friend from middle/high school), Matt L. (friend from Annenberg), CarrieLynn (friend from Comic Con), and Julien (friend from Paris). I’m often very hesitant to tell people, “Thanks, I already saw that,” because I really appreciate when people send me stuff, and I want them to feel encouraged to do so. And actually, getting multiple people telling me about the same link is a rough indication of how widely circulated a thing is around the web, which is pretty interesting to see in itself.

Anyway, as long as we’re talking links, here’s a couple from Dan (another friend from middle/high school). First, Barack Obama in front of a Superman statue in Metropolis, IL (which we visited on our cross-country trip). Dan wasn’t sending it for the article so much as the photo, but it’s worth noting that Obama has begun to “network with the nerds,” as Gizmodo’s Benny Goldman writes of the candidate’s outspoken stance on technology. And finally, Dan also sends a geek alphabet. I got most (but not all) of the references, and was shocked I remembered what a “glitter boy” was (which I know thanks to Evan, another middle/high school friend, with whom I am staying in Chicago right now).

Assessing Quality in Media Research

A few months ago, I started taking notes for a post titled “Quality Should Not Be a Dirty Word.” This was initially prompted by reading that Ed Norton (an actor whom I like) would be starring in the next Hulk movie (a franchise I think could be fun), but that the movie would be directed by the fellow who did The Transporter 2 (a fairly abysmal movie). The disappointment I experienced made me want to write a blog post, and it seemed geeky enough to fit in here, but then I realized that it seemed somewhat out of bounds for an academic blog: Media researchers aren’t supposed to make evaluative judgments like this. That kind of reaction is for fans—though, when you think about it, it’s not like media researchers’ tastes don’t influence what they write about. Thoughts of the Hulk behind me, I suddenly started taking notes on the relative lack of research and reflection on the how aesthetic standards are formed and applied, including by academics (at least since Bourdieu closed the book on it for many since he described taste in terms of class values).

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More on Beautiful Geeks

I’ve got some links today following up on the other day’s long post about auditioning for Beauty and the Geek and attending Nerd Nite in Boston over the weekend. I called it “Polar Expeditions” because of the differences between the events, but the real polar expedition was made by my fellow geek “Karen”—LeDiva on Livejournal—who emailed me after reading my post and referred me back to her own post on the audition. Her journey also included some time spent with the women auditioning for beauties, which sounds like a whole other world right in the same room.

While I do often get to compare my field notes with other bloggers’ posts about events like Comic Con in a broad sense, this must be the first time I’ve been able to compare notes on such specific situations at such an event. I was pretty amazed to see how similarly we described it all. (However, I totally made up the part about her being a grad student. We agreed that we got along with one another, though, and more than half my friends nowadays are grad students, so somehow I just filled in the blank on that one for myself.)

Additional reports on the casting call come from Bostonist (link via Church in my last post) and BU’s student newspaper (which I remembered to check because I saw a guy taking photos and asked where they’d be). That rapping fellow with the MIT chains and LED belt buckle sure made an impression on us all, apparently.

Now, back in Philadelphia, I’m finding that “I auditioned for Beauty and the Geek” is a great conversation starter with people. I also find it both kindly complimentary and vaguely unsettling that people keep telling me that I’m clearly not geeky enough to make it on the show. I’m doing a whole dissertation on geek culture here. How much more geeky can I get? This, along with my lack of interest in running Linux, is another reason why I have trouble explaining to people whether I can consider this project a “native ethnography.”

Thanks to LeDiva for emailing and giving me permission to link her post, and thanks also to Ben from Nerd Nite for commenting on “Polar Expeditions.” Interviews can be fun, but It’s especially exciting to have people contacting me to volunteer information about the events I attend for research.

Polar Expeditions

Yesterday, Dan (who has requested to be referenced as my “partner in crime”) ushered me around the greater Boston area for an ethnographic adventure. First, we went to an open casting call for Beauty and the Geek near Boston Common. Later, in the evening, Genevieve joined us and we moved on to the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain for Nerd Nite. In the span of a single day, I feel like I visited two poles of the geek culture spectrum. Here is that story, adapted from my field notes.

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