Nerd culture in Middle America
by Patrick Traylor
About the Book
This book is a photographic ethnography, exploring the lives of individuals and social groups who self-identify as “nerds” and “geeks.” The two terms have different meanings from person to person, but in the context of wider society, the labels are academically indistinguishable in significance. Although both these terms originally developed with negative connotations, the widespread use of computers and information technology in contemporary society has lead to a trend accepting geek as chic. Over the past decade, Hollywood has churned out blockbusters based on science fiction, fantasy and countless comic book superheroes- Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Batman series’ just to name a few. Images of nerds in popular culture, however, present at best simple caricatures, depicting primarily white males with glasses and pocket protectors as unkempt social outcasts, stifling diversity and failing to dispel negative connotations.
The reality of nerd culture in modern society has moved beyond damaging stereotypical caricatures and now exists as a valid social identity, crossing previously unexpected identifiers such as gender, race and social class. This book visually describes the experience, symbols, and means of socialization for this diffuse yet coherent American subculture through visual documentation of individuals and a variety of social gatherings and events. Important events include groups of friends gathering to play multiplayer electronic, table top and live action role playing games, local and regional gaming competitions or themed conventions, as well as national conventions bringing together celebrities, vendors and thousands of fans.
The images were made over the course of a year- between April 2011 and March 2012. The scenes presented in this book first depict conventions for a variety of genres within geek fan culture and then move into more private gatherings of individuals who self-identify as nerds, socializing around specific interests.