How to Help a French Documentarian

Jean-Baptiste Peretie is a director working on a documentary about geek culture for Arte. (For my fellow Americans: it’s kind of like a European PBS.) You might have seen the documentary’s crew if you were on the floor at Wondercon this year. We were chatting today about how hard it is to get a good, broad sample of people to interview for a study on such a diverse group (and don’t I know it). I offered to help out by trying to put you, my good readers, in touch with him.

If you’re a geek or a nerd and you’d like to be interviewed—especially if you happen to be over 40 years of age and/or are living in Europe—drop JB an email at European interviewees will be easier for JB and crew to film, of course, but rest assured that you can get away with speaking in English if that’s your only language. (We got on just fine with that this afternoon, which is good, as I speak no French, and my Spanish/Russian/Old Norse skills are rusty at best.) And don’t worry if you’re camera-shy; they’re not only looking for people to film, but even just people to chat with on Skype to help with their research.

So, once again: email to chat about geek culture, and help a French documentarian today.

Sex and the City “Geeks” (and Geek Studies) in the News

If a television show turned cultural phenomenon spawns diehard fans who recite dialogue by heart, wear costumes inspired by the show and buy all the tie-in products, are these devotees nerds? If the show in question is Star Trek, The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the answer is certainly yes. But what if we’re talking about Sex and the City?

Mark Medley, a reporter writing for the National Post, asked me this question a couple weeks ago. Now, it kicks off an article titled “Female Trekkies.” (Another version, sans my brief quote, made it to the Victoria Times Colonist under the title “Sex and the City Fans. Geek or Chic?”)

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Reflecting on PCA/ACA 2008

Last week blogging was a little light as I attended the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association 2008 conference (PDF schedule here). The word “geek” came up way more than I expected, considering that I was presenting on my games research and wasn’t even bringing up geeks there myself.

I thought I’d share some thoughts on a few of the panels and presentations I saw, including the panel I chaired in the Digital Games division. It’s not representative of everything I saw, and sadly, I had to miss several things I wanted to catch, but that’s the way things are at a big conference with lots of interesting stuff going on.

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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.

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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