July 21, 2008

The BSA in Puerto Rico

Category: IP Law,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 4:22 am

Apparently there is enough of a pirate problem in PR that the BSA even has a special PR-only Website.

July 15, 2008

For the love of data

Category: Academic,Tech — Biella @ 10:08 am

I love Zotero and now with this new news, my love, I think, will just grow.

July 10, 2008

Han Reiser and autism

Category: Disability Studies,Tech — Biella @ 1:09 pm

Autism Vox has a post about the recent autism defense for Han Reiser’s case. It will be interesting to see play out (and I am as baffled as she is about the Duckbill Platypus. Is it just supposed to be a stand-in for strange?)

July 9, 2008

WP issues: A question

Category: Tech — Biella @ 1:33 am

So, I have noticed and it has been brought to my attention that my entries are only partially displayed. I have checked my settings in Word Press, they are set to display my entire entries. Is there some other aspect of WP, feed burner or my RSS address that could be behind the partial displays? I can’t seem to find an answer so I thought I would try here!

July 6, 2008

To be a nerd is to be …

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Geekitude,Tech — Biella @ 6:26 am

A month ago, I picked up a copy of Benjamin Nugent’s American Nerd, and finally got around to reading it the last few days. The prospect of reading an entire book on nerds was exciting—I was a nerd after all—but I have to admit, I was also a little skeptical when I first leafed through the pages. I thought there might be too much auto-biographical mush filling the pages. But I was pleasantly surprised. Within his cool, calm, accessible, and measured prose, there is, to be sure, a dose of autobiographical tales (and this is part of what gives him his “cred”) but these are weaved richly and deftly into a series of ruminations and explanations—anthropological, psychological, literary, and historical in nature—on what makes up a nerd.

What are nerds? Who are nerds? These are the types of basic questions he asks and spends the whole book answering. On the one hand, to be a nerd is as simple and unremarkable (though not so fun) as being designated by others such. Neither ascribed nor achieved status, this form of nerdom is bequeathed by others and accepted reluctantly, if at all.

Yet there is a whole lot more to nerdiness than imputation. First, he explores many types of nerds in relationship to their behaviors and activities (gamers, D & D players, science fiction fans, those that blast to the past through the Society of Creative Anachronism, and even faux-nerds that now populate hipster neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Wicker Park). Along with giving a window into the lives of these folks, most of whom were probably nerds growing up and still may be sort of nerdy in their behavior, he provides a decent historical genealogy of the word as well as the broader cultural context in the United States that would make a nerd a recognizable figure decades later when it was popularized in print and TV.

To work out how American developed its concept of a nerd,” writes Nugent, “it helps to establish how American arrived at its concept of a sportsman.” He argues that the move from an agricultural to an industrial society helped prompt the rise of sport as a method and cultural marker to “reclaim physical mastery” which was marked somewhat dramatically in the Ivy League institutions that started to valorize sport and masculinity (University of Chicago did not seem to follow the trend and hence it is known as a haven for nerds). Given this overarching context, where masculinity was defined through sport and body, the nerd, culturally speaking, lost out.

The term itself also has a specific history. First appearing in the pages of Dr Seuss as a mythical animal, nerd, it was only later at a fairly nerdy school, RPI, whereby it would take on its current and more familiar usage. RPI published a college humor journal by the name of Bachelor, which started, in the 1960s, to feature a dud by the name of Nurdly and soon after, the term nerd became used for any dud. Thanks to the SNL skits featuring Gilda Radner and Bill Murray, nerd eventually became a house hold name by the late 1970s.

If the term nerd has a recent history, perhaps the importance of Nugent’s book is how it goes elsewhere to help us understand nerdom. One fascinating place he goes is to broader (and often negative) cultural representations of the “Jew” and the racism they faced who were in part discriminated against because of their extreme intellectual dedication, which he argues “suggest Jews sometimes played a role in certain popular imaginations not so different from that of today’s nerd.” He then puts this into play with other discussions of racism such as old fashioned racism against African Americans to make the excellent point that nerds and Africa/African Americans are also in the popularly imaginary, diametrically opposed (and Weird Al makes this same point or reproduces this imaginary here). (more…)

July 2, 2008

Going going gone

Category: Tech — Biella @ 2:40 pm

So, while you can still access this blog via the healthhacker address, you can only subsribe to one feed and this is it [http://gabriellacoleman.org/blog/?feed=rss] and the new blog address will be