Christmas was typically geeky (for me) in the Tocci household this year, netting one Mario brothers t-shirt, two comics, four Xbox 360 games, one PS2 game, one DS game, and the new They Might Be Giants album. I also had the opportunity to introduce my girlfriend’s family to the Guitar Hero series, graciously lent by my brother Stephen. Now I am turning my attention back to papers, the dissertation, and taking stock of the links I’ve gathered to clutter up my browser lately.
Awhile back, I read about a Pew study on sites like Digg and Reddit. According to the BBC, the study found that “Seven out of ten of the stories selected by the user-driven [news] sites came from blogs or non-news websites with only 5% of stories overlapping with the ten most widely-covered stories in the mainstream media.” Also, “In a week dominated by stories about Iraq and the debate about immigration, users were more interested in the release of the iPhone and the news that Nintendo had surpassed Sony in net worth.” One of the authors admits that the “technology bias” was probably due to enthusiastic “early adopters” of such sites. I think that’s kind of an understatement. I think the sites they were looking at in the study were geek-dominated sites, and what they’re seeing isâ€”to some extentâ€”a geek-driven news agenda. You know me, of courseâ€”maybe I’d have called you a witch in Salem if I had been doing my dissertation on witches back thenâ€”but I doubt this is my imagination. I dropped by a Reddit Meetup on Halloween which seemed overwhelmingly male and sported a disproportionate number of people dressed as video game characters.
Not long after I read about the Pew study, I came across a link that keeps track of the most visited Wikipedia pages in a given month. As of when I’m checking it now, the top 10 include Naruto, Guitar Hero III, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Heroes, and Transformers (film), among others. If you don’t count generic pages like the entry page, pages about stereotypically geeky media products (anime, video games, fantasy literature, superheroes, robots, etc.) account for over half of the top ten results. Sex-related and Xbox-related pages figure prominently in the rest of the list. Sure, you occasionally see something like 50 Cent or America’s Next Top Model, but what we’d typically consider “mainstream” seems pretty outpaced here by what we’d consider “geeky.”
Emily Wilson, an assistant professor of classical studies at Penn, has written an article at Slate reflecting on why Americans might be interested in learning Latin. It’s an interesting question, and one I hadn’t realized might be a timely issueâ€”are there other recent examples of a surge of Latin-speaking geekery? I must admit, though, to some confusion about what the article implies about the origins of this phenomenon.
Awhile back, Sam Ford wrote a post questioning whether “the black nerd” could be a stereotype that “breaks” stereotypes. I dashed off a quick comment and then went on to read the post that inspired Sam’s words: filmmaker Raafi Rivero’s “Black Nerds: The Revolution No One Could Have Predicted.” (I was interested to see that Ron Eglash, whom I noted in my comment on Sam’s post, commented on the original post himself.)
On Joystiq‘s post covering Time’s top 10 games of 2007, the writer and commenters repeatedly lambaste the magazine for putting Halo 3 at the top of that list. They are working under the assumption that a “mainstream” magazine simply reverts to default selectionsâ€”i.e., what made the most moneyâ€”when reviewing games. I find this an interesting response because it suggests that what I’ve often thought of as a somewhat unified “geeky blogosphere” may actually be more fragmented. That is, nobody commenting on Time‘s list seems aware that the list was written (and, I assume, the results chosen by) Time‘s resident nerd, Lev Grossman, co-writer for an entire geek culture blog for the magazine. Lev comments on his top 10 lists for comics and games on that same blog.
Granted, the top 10 lists for comics and games were a little more mainstream-oriented than in some previous years. The games list only includes first-tier titles, not downloads (Pac-man CE, Space Giraffe, and flOw might have been contenders, for example). The graphic novel list features four titles by Marvel/DC (five if you count Wildstorm, distributed by DC). Andrew Arnold, who handled Time‘s graphic novels list in some previous years, focused more on indie titles, perhaps as part of his mission to introduce new audiences to comics they would be less likely to find out about otherwise. Perhaps such a mission seems less pressing now, in a time when the magazine has abandoned its artsy comics blog in favor of an overtly nerdy blogâ€”or perhaps this is simply a reflection of one man’s tastes versus another’s.
Thanks to a link from Emily, I now know what I have long hoped and suspected: My city is well on its way to being the new geek mecca. The link that confirms this is Geekadelphia, a blog that is all things geeky and Philly rolled into one.
Lots and lots of links this week, starting with a few about people promoting geeky causes.
Courtesy my fellow Annenberger Tara, we have today a veritable media blitz on why the ladies love the geeks.
Ever since writingâ€”and, more importantly, getting comments onâ€”a post about counterculture on the internet, I have been keeping an eye open for examples of geek-oriented activism on the internet. I’ve been particularly curious what kind of action might be visible almost entirely on the web itself (as opposed to initiatives that start on the web but have their most power in protests, courtrooms, etc.).
Something I find ceaselessly fascinating and baffling is the way that video games get criticized no matter what their content. If a game features violent activity that we could never (and, hopefully, would never) enact in real life, it gets criticized for encouraging real-life violence. If a game features non-violent activity that might even be considered worthwhile in real life, it gets criticized for discouraging real-life action. I’ve written a bit about the former here already, so I figure I might as well take a brief moment to comment on the latter, exemplified in criticism of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.