What the “triumph of the nerds” can tell us about the place of media in people’s lives.
Comic book superheroes, fantasy kingdoms, and futuristic starships have become inescapable features of today’s pop-culture landscape, and the people we used to deride as “nerds” or “geeks” have ridden their popularity and visibility to mainstream recognition. It seems it’s finally hip to be square. Yet these conventionalized representations of geek culture typically ignore the real people who have invested time and resources to make it what it is.
Getting a Life recentres our understanding of geek culture on the everyday lives of its participants, drawing on fieldwork in comic book shops, game stores, and conventions, including in-depth interviews with ordinary members of the overlapping communities of fans and enthusiasts. Benjamin Woo shows how geek culture is a set of interconnected social practices that are associated with popular media. He argues that typical depictions of mass-mediated entertainment as something that isolates and pacifies its audiences are flawed because they do not account for the conversations, relationships, communities, and identities that are created by engaging with the products of mass culture.
Getting a Life combines engaging interview material with lucid interpretation and a clear, interdisciplinary framework. The volume is both an accessible introduction to this contemporary subculture and an exploration of the ethical possibilities of a life lived with media.
The Greatest Comic Book of All Time: Symbolic Capital and the Field of American Comic Books
Bart Beaty and Benjamin Woo work to historicize why it is that certain works or creators have come to define the notion of a "quality comic book," while other works and creators have been left at the fringes of critical analysis.
Scene Thinking: Cultural Studies from the Scenes Perspective
How is cultural activity shaped by the places where it unfolds? One answer has been found in the ‘scenes perspective’, a development within popular music studies that explains change and transformation within musical practices in terms of the social and institutional histories of scenes. Scene Thinking: Cultural Studies from the Scenes Perspective takes up this framework – and the mode of analysis that goes with it – as an important contribution to cultural analysis and social research more generally.
In a series of focused case studies – ranging across practices like drag kinging, Bangladeshi underground music, urban arts interventions and sites like single performance venues, urban neighbourhoods in various states of gentrification, and virtual networks of game consoles in countless living rooms – the authors demonstrate how ‘scene thinking’ can enrich cultural studies inquiry. As a humanistic, empirically oriented alternative to network-based social ontologies, thinking in terms of scenes sensitizes researchers to complex, fluid processes that are nonetheless anchored and made meaningful at the level of lived experience. This book was originally published as a special issue of Cultural Studies.