Nerds, Geeks, and Bros: New course for Fall 2018!

I’m going to be teaching a new course this fall titled “Nerds, Geeks, and Bros.”  It’s DTEM 3444, Wednesdays 2:30-5:15. Please take a look at the course description and consider taking it!

Course Description:

This course looks at the rise of the ‘nerd’ as a way to investigate shifts in masculinity, race, and power with the rise of the digital economy. Part of the course investigates how men, starting in the 1960s to the “Brotopia” of Silicon Valley today, dominate digital technologies and the STEM field. We will examine the historical and cultural shifts that changed computer work from a feminine job to a masculine one. From examinations of popular culture, such as movies, students will trace how the nerd figure became a new hero. The nerd hero is overwhelmingly male and white and represents shifts in gender and racial politics. Students will read from history, social science, communications, as well as study popular media such as movies, television, and advertisements. Through an investigation into the nerd, geek, and bro, figure students will see how women and minorities’ innovations have been left out of history, as well as left out of the industry. By the end of the course, students will advance potential solutions to the inequalities in the technology industry.


popular culture and “making do”

In fashion class last week, we discussed Giske’s definition of popular culture. Briefly, he stated that popular culture is “the art of making do with what’s available” (15). Using an example from digital culture class, a student mentioned studying Taylor Swift fan sites, and this is a great example of popular culture. Taylor Swift is not popular culture–she’s, her brand, is a commodity. She is a commodity and as such embodies “an ideology made material” (14). The fan sites, however, are “making do” with what’s available–they are the popular culture. The things available include: TS and various digital platforms that allow the creation of interactive fan sites.

This was a new way, for me, to think about popular culture and I like it because it forces us to consider how people make culture out of what’s available–fashion cultures, digital cultures, etc. As digital media encroaches on more and more aspects of life, we’ll consider digital tools (devices, platforms, etc) as commodities. Sticking with Giske, we’ll need to think about the ideologies embedded within digital commodities. What we do with such commodities, how we use them or “make do” is culture. I’d like us all to think about the ideologies embedded in popular culture–what are the ideologies of ripped jeans (as Fiske explains), or of a weird twitter account?

Of course, commodity producers try to co-opt the production of popular culture, they see what’s being made and turn popular culture into new commodities.