Nerd Girls, Sex Appeal, and Stereotypes

I’ve just returned from several weeks of traveling—ICA in Montreal, a couple weeks in Boston, and a week in Madrid, where I gave a talk on my gaming research—and found a flurry of emails from folks who quite rightly knew I’d be interested in reading about Nerd Girls. (Thanks CTW, Church, Dan, Paul, Tony, and anyone I missed!) The latest issue of Newsweek has an article about this group of female engineers at Tufts, focusing on their attempt to revise the nerd image to have some room for femininity. I’m not sure how much of the group’s mission is concerned with promoting nerds as sexually attractive—it seems like the kind of thing that might get mentioned in passing and then blown out of proportion by a journalist—but it’s clearly the major concern of those commenting and blogging on the article.

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Links: A Few Notes During a Moment of Quiet

Things have been busy with non-web writing lately, and are about to get busier, so updates may be sparse (or, I suppose, absent) around here for at least another week or so. Tomorrow I’m headed to Montreal shortly for the International Communication Association 2008 conference, presenting a paper on experimental comics and the concept of visual language. In the meantime, here’s a few links I’m not sure what to do with, but which seemed interesting enough to post.

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Links: From Closet Geeks to Sexiest Geeks Alive

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.

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October Link Madness Continues: Comics, TV, Academia, and More

Got some more links to burn through today, and even more after this. And I still owe Z. a reply on why the “games as art” question is worth asking at all. And I’ve got half-finished posts lying around about video game genres and Nintendo’s “urban” clothing. I’ll address these in more, all in good time. For now, lots of links in no particular order.

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Early October Link Drop

I’ve been letting some links I wanted to post fall by the wayside as I work on revising a paper for resubmission, applying for jobs for next year, and putting together a presentation describing research done through Annenberg’s SummerCulture 2007: Lisbon program. (For those who wished us luck: Thanks, and the presentations went well!) Anyway, read on for some things that may be of interest.

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The XKCD Event

A couple days ago, Jordan sent me an email linking to a forum thread for the popular geek/nerd/stick-figure webcomic XKCD. The forum thread discussed some coordinates and a time noted in a recent strip, which had been changed from a location in upstate New York to those of a small park in North Cambridge (42.39561 -71.13057 2007 09 23 14 38 00). This quickly turned into a discussion of who was going to make the pilgrimage to this park on September 23, 2007, at 2:38 PM local time (or 10:38 AM, which is 2:38 GMT). Fans started meetup threads at the XKCD forum, Livejournal, and elsewhere (just google “XKCD event”).

The original strip ends with a person explaining that he went to the coordinates revealed to him by a woman in a dream, where he discovered that “It turns out wanting something doesn’t make it real.” This makes for a sad and touching sort of ending, but also left the door open for something much grander.

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Nerds Make Sense of Love Lives Through Formulae

As a follow-up to an earlier post, consider a conversation in the XKCD forums regarding a formula for acceptable age limits for dating. It offers another interesting glimpse of how math (sort of) helps us think about our lives. My favorite exchange:

Is it sad that I have both heard of and used that formula before?

I’d say no, but since I’m trying to remember where my graphing calculator is, I’m hardly impartial.

This also led my friend Jordan to calculations on the probability of finding a girlfriend. The validity of this analysis is apparently in dispute. Let us remember that the odds change depending on context: If you’re determined to date a gamer, for example, you may have a better chance of finding a mate at the local arcade than in, say, Chuck E. Cheese’s, where the people playing games are likely to be minors, and the adults are more likely to be married parents. (Exception: You may also find the occasional group of twentysomething guys who recall that Chuck E. Cheese’s serves beer for the parents and decide to show up for the novelty of getting drunk with an animatronic animal band. I learned of this practice from someone at South by Southwest Interactive.)

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.

Nerdy Events For You and Me

Nerd Nite is an opportunity for self-proclaimed nerds to give talks about their favorite nerdy things in a bar. The official site went for months without an update, but a new Boston Nerd Nite (on cephalopods!) was announced just a couple days after I joined their email list. Alas, it’s on the day after I head back to Philadelphia, but you Bostonians can check it out this Saturday night. Inkling Magazine has an interesting write-up on the event’s history.

As long as I’m announcing events with geek-oriented names, please also feel free to check out Dorkbot, featuring many worldwide chapters of “people doing strange things with electricity.” I caught a neat Dorkbot party in Austin during South by Southwest Interactive (featuring Tree Wave on the stage, a Tesla coil playing the Ghostbusters theme song, free issues of Make Magazine, and free beer, among other attractions), and I hope my visit to Portugal this summer coincides with a meeting by the Lisbon chapter.