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Something to Prove?: Contemplating the Fake Geek Academic

by Ethan Tussey

by Suzanne Scott for IN MEDIA RES

Fandom has long treated media texts as “open source,” available to be modified and enhanced, and as an aca-fan I’ve adopted a similarly malleable scholarly identity. I wholeheartedly embrace the ethos of “open source academia,” but media scholars are only now beginning to grapple with the implications of the digital public sphere engaging the academy, rather than vice versa. It’s increasingly important to consider what we, as open source academics, might have to modify and enhance when we make ourselves, and our work, publicly accessible.

Academics are conditioned to defend our work (that “track” is more of a gauntlet, after all), but we should also be cognizant of how the current wave of social media-enabled boundary policing within geek culture might extend to the academy. Although the “fan” in me would like to fully embrace the lyrical sentiment of The Doubleclicks’ video, the “aca” side, like the video’s imagery, is aware that scholars increasingly do have something to prove, and to a wider array of constituencies. While this can be incredibly productive, or provoke important questions about our accountability to the (sub)cultures we study, it can also be precarious.

Though this video engages “fake geek girl” discourses, GamerGate’s recent targeting of scholarly organizations, journals, and academics has made it clear that the qualities of transparency, collaboration, and community that I associate with (aca)fandom and open source academia can be rapidly reappropriated to anonymously police authenticity through harassment. Calls for modifications and enhancements have already emerged from this moment of “open source academia,” including Statements of Community from academic programs and calls to collective action within academic organizations. Open source’s “no discrimination” policy works both ways: scholars cannot discriminatively determine who engages our work, but we also need to be attentive to emergent patterns of discrimination against particular types of scholarship. If the “fake geek girl” and GamerGate movements seek to silence marginalized voices, open source academia needs to collectively ensure that these instances of authenticity policing don’t have a similar effect on scholarly production.<

Open Source and Geek Girls

A music video by the Doubleclicks

from Nothing to Prove (2013)
Creator: The Doubleclicks
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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