Links: Geek Shame, the Lulz, and Two Meanings for “Hardcore”

This weekend’s link drop is brought to you by Church, Jordan, Cabral, various Gawker blogs, and the letter Q.

Confessions of a Sci-Fi Addict:
Let’s start with this link-ful post from the Website at the End of the Universe, brought to us courtesy Church. The main link is to a newspaper column titled “Admitting addiction to fantasy, sci-fi books” (“after years secreted in the book closet”). I was just as interested in the links that accompanied this on the referring site, though (such as these great old Worldcon photos), and the claim that “While not exactly in leauge with the civil rights or suffragette movements, geek acceptance has come a long way from the early days of fandom.”

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Geek Weekend

The problem with being a lone ethnographer working on a multi-site project is that you can only be in one place at a time. This weekend is an exciting and devastating example of that problem, as a number of geeky events are going down around the various places I frequent (and beyond).

Make:Philly: Philadelphia, PA. This Sunday, Make:Philly will be doing an intro to NES video graphics. The Maker Challenge will involve hacking a NES ROM to alter its graphics. It hurts my soul to know that I will miss this. Tune in to Geekadelphia to find out how it goes if you can’t make it, either.

Geek Week: Utica, NY. Church emails me to let me know that this is “Geek Week” at SUNYIT. Lots of gaming, science-fiction, and rocket-building will ensue.

“The idea is to bring people together to enjoy the things they’re passionate about,” Brenda Dow, alumni and advancement services officer, said in a news release.
“Everyone has a hobby or a pastime they engage in to the point of ‘geekiness,’ whether it’s technology, sci-fi movies, gaming or something else.”

Arisia 2008: Boston, MA. In Boston, this weekend hosts Arisia, which happens to be the first science-fiction convention I ever attended. The panel I most regret having to miss this year is titled, “What am I? A fan? A geek? A nerd?” Check it out Sunday at 7:00:

What is a geek? A nerd? A fan? A hardcore fan? Which one are you? What does it mean, and should you even care? Discuss how labels affect fandom and what can be done to benefit from or break down the structures that distinguish us.

MIT Mystery Hunt: Cambridge, MA. My time, however, will be spent at the MIT Mystery Hunt, which I have been meaning to (and unable to) attend in person for several years in a row. Depending on where I get a job after I graduate this year, I figure it may be my last chance to attend it for awhile (or at all), and my last chance to get in some time at MIT before I finish the dissertation.

I am also remiss in my blogging duties as of late, thanks to all my recent travels and other work duties. In the coming days/weeks, anyway, expect some updates and photos from the last Make:Philly, Nerd Nite Boston, the Consumer Electronics Show, and the Mystery Hunt.

From the Floor of CES

Yesterday I was walking through the exhibitors’ booths in the Sands hotel in Las Vegas, carrying a colorful box with large, plastic toys inside. The toys—a giveaway by Cartoon Network to promote a new show—had been distributed at a panel I attended in the morning on “new frontiers of play.” The charmingly bizarre design aesthetic prompted me to take one, unsure of what I would do with it later, so I had to lug it around for a few hours.

Somewhere near the life-size toy Halo guns and the “Air Guitar Hero” booth, a woman gasped with delight upon seeing the box under my arm. “Where did you get this?” she asked. She seemed East Asian, somewhere between her late 20s and mid 30s.

I explained which room the toys were at, and said there were probably many left, based on how fast they were being taken. “Are you a collector?” I asked.

“No,” she said, still smiling, “I have a three-year-old who would love this, though.”

Though they are both comparably large conventions that look pretty similar from the show floor, the Consumer Electronics Show is very different from Comic Con International. This was my favorite example illustrating this point, but it’s certainly not the most extreme example. I’ll be writing about this (and some other recent research excursions) once I get back home to Philadelphia this week. In the meantime, go check out the still ongoing conversation about geek music which I blogged about the other day. I just realized there’s a whole second page (and maybe more) of posts which I completely missed, so I need to return to that soon, too.

A Gaming Survey

I got a message yesterday from Nick Bowman, a doctoral student at Michigan State University I met this past year at the International Communication Association conference. He says:

Myself and a colleague, Daniel Schultheiss, are working on gathering gamer data on on-line video game players. At this point, Daniel has a wealth of information on German game players, but he is/we are hoping to expand this subject pool to include gamers from other parts of the world. If you could help perhaps spread the word about our survey, it would be a great help to both of us.

If you could consider forwarding the survey link to your students and colleagues – or anyone else interested in on-line gaming – this would be very helpful to us. The survey link is, and currently there are German and English language versions. The survey should take less than 10 minutes. Subjects who choose to complete the survey are entered into a raffle to win free audio-book downloads (he has something in the neighborhood of 55,000 free downloads he can give away), and all identities will be kept private.

If you have any further questions, please contact me at bowmann5 at msu dot edu.

I bolded the parts I thought might be particularly relevant. Please feel free to take the survey yourself or to pass it along to others. Thanks!

Culture, Community, and Nerdy Music

Church emailed me yesterday (at Matt S.‘s prompting, I think) to invite me to check out an interesting conversation. The whole thread started with Z.’s year-end wrap-up post at Hipster, Please!, which reflected on how the nerdcore hip-hop scene has long seemed less community-oriented than the wizard rock scene. Nerdcore artists seemed to move past that in 2007 to help a fellow artist in need, leading Z. to conclude that for him, 2007 “will be remembered as the year we came together, if only for a minute and if only under the worst of circumstances.”

The conversation that followed the post, however, was mostly concerned with why nerdcore hasn’t had that sense of community more often, or in a more sustained fashion. Noting that the post was getting so many comments that it looked like a forum, participants moved over to the Game Music 4 All forum to continue. The conversation touches upon a number of related points, such as what “nerdcore” really means, what binds the various interests related to nerdcore, and whether nerdcore and wizard rock are better approached as genres, scenes, or movements. It’s very interesting reading, and I encourage you to go check out the whole thread yourself.

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