Geek Culture Bibliography

April 16th, 2007

While googling around for stuff to add to my lit review, I came upon an interesting geek culture bibliography by William L. Svitavsky in Reconstruction. Svitavsky hits on some of the points I’ve wanted to consider further in my own work, and pretty concisely sums up why I have been hoping to help bridge the gap between popular knowledge and academic consideration of media cultures:

When a study profiles a group engaged in one of these activities, it is not unusual for the group’s participation in the other activities to be mentioned as well. In popular culture (as opposed to studies of popular culture), this overlap has been recognized all along. Each of these groups has been ridiculed as “geeks” or “nerds”, and each has subverted those terms into proud self-identification. In his work on media fandom, Henry Jenkins observes that active audiences are “textual poachers” who move from one text to another, and cannot be accurately defined by their relationship with a single text; it may be useful, then, to study geek culture as a whole rather than to focus exclusively on its component areas of interest. This bibliography is an effort to support such a study of the interrelated “geek” subcultures.

Most studies of fandom, in other words, focus on a particular fan group or attempt to give a broad picture of “fandom” as a concept. But how do we account for overlapping subgroups of fans?

I wish I had the time right now to propose some amendments to Svitavsky’s list, such as the inclusion of Hills’s Fan Cultures and an entire category for video games, but I’ll have to cut the blogging short today. Maybe this is something worth returning to for a future project, though. The plan for this article (noted in the journal’s table of contents for that issue) was to make this a “living bibliography” that the author could update over time. This was back in 2001, and the last update was 2002, so perhaps a geek culture wiki would make more sense. Arguably, Wikipedia is already a geek culture wiki, seeing as how the entries for things like Star Wars are more extensive than entries for things like some state legislatures or the entire Pacific Ocean. A specifically academic bibliography wiki, however, formatted somewhat like Svitavsky’s article, would fill a niche that may not be filled elsewhere, and would certainly be less cluttered.

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3 Responses to “Geek Culture Bibliography”

  1. Dan Says:

    Arguably, Wikipedia is already a geek culture wiki, seeing as how the entries for things like Star Wars are more extensive than entries for things like some state legislatures or the entire Pacific Ocean.

    I also wonder if this is simply because of a lower “barrier to entry” on those topics? I mean, all you really have to have to contribute to articles on Star Wars is knowledge of trivia; things like the Pacific Ocean and state legislatures require somewhat more specialized, technical knowledge.

  2. Jacob Says:

    This sort of quicky introduction to the literature and background to specific fields of study is a wonderful thing no matter subject they’re on — and I’d certainly appreciate it for your work, since my academic background is arguably in computer science or mathematics or somesuch.

    I’ve seen this exact thing work as a wiki as part of graduate coursework, where the wiki is part of the shared notetaking for the class. However from that experience, I wonder whether there would be enough active editing to really justify a wiki for this sort of list. If you’re thinking about doing this Jason, it might live longer if you manage the list yourself, but provide an easy way for others to submit new pointers. Sort of like Yahoo! back! in! 1995!

  3. Jason Tocci Says:

    @ Dan:
    That seems like a fair point, as the lower institutional barrier to entry (i.e., not feeling like you need a degree to talk about Star Wars) would probably increase the number of who feel comfortable chiming in on “trivia” topics. That said, I can’t help but wonder if the distinction between “specialized, technical knowledge” and “trivia” has less to do with actual measures of expertise and more to do with the way our culture assigns value to different types of knowledge.

    I’m suggesting a geek culture wiki not because I think academic knowledge is better than fan knowledge (and I’m certainly not accusing you of suggesting as much either), but because academia needs it more than the rest of the internet, and such a list would have a more manageable scope.

    @ Jacob:
    I don’t remember what Yahoo! was like in ’95—was an Altavista man, myself. That said, maybe if I get a chance later I’ll set up a page with a geek culture wiki with membership rules I can moderate. If I were to have to do all the updating myself and just allow other people to send me stuff to add, it would work pretty much like our grad student government’s site works now, which is kind of a pain on my end. That means slower turnaround time and probably less of an incentive to participate at all (as seeing changes register immediately may act as a type of positive feedback). Setting up a page like this would be partially for selfish ends (I want to know what other people know, not just write what I know), so I’d have to make sure to figure out a way to make contributing easy and rewarding.

    Chatting with Dan, it seems like the wiki software we share on the server hosting this site may be overkill for what I’d really need on this. I’d want something that’s easy for editors to use and that I could reformat so it more closely resembles the style of this blog. Giving editing capabilities to select users with WordPress might not be a better solution, though, because I’m not sure it makes sense to save entries as blog posts, and I’m not interested in opening up the whole blog to group editing. Can you (or anybody) suggest software that might be useful?