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Ottemo, A., Berge, M., Mendick, H. & Silfver, E. (2024). Geek nostalgia: the reflective and restorative defence of white male geek culture. New Media and Society
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Geek nostalgia: the reflective and restorative defence of white male geek culture
2024 (English)In: New Media and Society, ISSN 1461-4448, E-ISSN 1461-7315Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

During recent decades, geek culture has become increasingly visible, and the geek has left the cultural margins, becoming more popular than ever. At the same time, nostalgia has emerged as a central component of geek culture. Framed by a post-structural understanding of gender and race and drawing on cultural theorist Svetlana Boym’s distinction between reflective and restorative nostalgia, this article explores how and why geeks nostalgically long for a time when they were largely marginalized. We combine readings of Swedish online geek podcasts and YouTube channels with ethnographic visits to geek conferences and pop-cultural “geek fairs,” such as Comic Con and SciFiWorld. We argue that geek nostalgia represents a clinging on to a “constitutive wound,” allowing the geek figure to mobilize masculine victimhood in ways that simultaneously underpin geek privilege and allow the geek to continue operating as a white male gatekeeper of geek culture.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2024
Keywords
Geek culture, gender, masculinity, nostalgia, race
National Category
Learning Ethnology Media Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-221477 (URN)10.1177/14614448241232067 (DOI)2-s2.0-85185910257 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2018-03401
Available from: 2024-02-25 Created: 2024-02-25 Last updated: 2024-03-06
Mendick, H., Ottemo, A., Berge, M. & Silfver, E. (2023). Geek entrepreneurs: the social network, Iron Man and the reconfiguration of hegemonic masculinity. Journal of Gender Studies, 32(3), 283-295
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Geek entrepreneurs: the social network, Iron Man and the reconfiguration of hegemonic masculinity
2023 (English)In: Journal of Gender Studies, ISSN 0958-9236, E-ISSN 1465-3869, Vol. 32, no 3, p. 283-295Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we argue that the geek entrepreneur is a new hegemonic masculine formation superseding the macho formation exemplified by John Wayne and the global business masculinity proposed as hegemonic by Connell and Messerschmidt more recently. This formation fuses the technological genius and suffering of geekiness with the disruption and innovation of entrepreneurialism. It is the masculinity of the geek entrepreneur that today legitimates both male domination and capitalism. We construct this argument through looking in detail at two cinematic representations of the geek entrepreneur: Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and Tony Stark in Iron Man. We hope to open up a debate about how gendered discursive formations have changed since the 1980s, what masculinity is now hegemonic, and how this can illuminate gender and other power relations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
entrepreneur, geek, hegemonic masculinity, Iron Man, Mark Zuckerberg
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-188019 (URN)10.1080/09589236.2021.1981836 (DOI)000702243100001 ()2-s2.0-85116120923 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2018-03401
Available from: 2021-09-30 Created: 2021-09-30 Last updated: 2023-09-05Bibliographically approved
Ottemo, A., Berge, M., Mendick, H. & Silfver, E. (2023). Gender, passion, and 'sticky' technology in a voluntaristically-organized technology makerspace. Engineering Studies, 15(2), 101-121
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gender, passion, and 'sticky' technology in a voluntaristically-organized technology makerspace
2023 (English)In: Engineering Studies, ISSN 1937-8629, E-ISSN 1940-8374, Vol. 15, no 2, p. 101-121Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As 'open' and supposedly inclusive informal learning settings that participants visit out of interest and passion, there has been hope that makerspaces will democratize technology and challenge traditional gender patterns in engineering education. Passion for technology has, however, also been shown to be deeply intertwined with the masculinization of engineering. This article explores how this tension manifests among engineering students and other makers at an 'open' voluntaristically-organized technology makerspace located at the campus of a Swedish university of technology. It draws on a post-structural understanding of gender and Sara Ahmed’s queer phenomenological conceptualization of emotions as 'orienting devices'. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with makers, we show how passion for technology is articulated as a particularly absorbing emotion that underpins a playful approach to technology and a framing of makers as single-minded and asocial. We demonstrate how passion for technology thereby becomes a homosocial 'glue' that makes technology 'sticky' for only a select group of techno-passionate men. We conclude that this undermines the potential for 'making' to democratize technology and puts into question the degree to which interest-driven, voluntaristic and 'authentic' settings for engaging with technology can contribute to pluralizing engineering.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
Gender, technology, makerspaces, engineering, passion, ‘stickiness’
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-207034 (URN)10.1080/19378629.2023.2203396 (DOI)000972906200001 ()2-s2.0-85153481255 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2018-03401
Available from: 2023-04-25 Created: 2023-04-25 Last updated: 2023-09-04Bibliographically approved
Silfver, E. & Ekesryd Nordström, M. (2023). Shifting discourses on giftedness in Swedish newspaper media – what’s the problem represented to be?. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Shifting discourses on giftedness in Swedish newspaper media – what’s the problem represented to be?
2023 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, ISSN 0031-3831, E-ISSN 1470-1170Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this article is to explore how public discussions on giftedness and gifted students are framed in two of Sweden’s leading newspapers over a 25-year period (1995-2019). We explored discourse within 72 articles, using a time-sensitive analysis combined with a ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ approach. The results show that the concept of giftedness became established during the period, although there were also counter-discourses questioning what ‘giftedness’ means and how schools should be organised. There is a lack of more in-depth discussions about how social class, ethnicity, or gender can affect how students are regarded in school, or how teaching can affect intellectual development. Instead, there is a strong stance in favour of individualised teaching.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
Giftedness, gifted students, public discussions, egalitarian school system, discourses
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-214703 (URN)10.1080/00313831.2023.2259930 (DOI)2-s2.0-85172113803 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2023-09-25 Created: 2023-09-25 Last updated: 2023-10-16
Berge, M., Mendick, H., Andreas, O. & Silfver, E. (2023). Walking the line of being a geek or not: race, gender and re-surfacing stereotypes. In: ECER 2023: Programme. Paper presented at ECER 2023, European conference on educational research, Glasgow, UK, August 22-25, 2023. EERA
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Walking the line of being a geek or not: race, gender and re-surfacing stereotypes
2023 (English)In: ECER 2023: Programme, EERA , 2023Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Who is a geek? In popular media the geeks are often portrayed as the school’s losers who perform well in school but have low status (Salter and Blodget, 2017). The low status of the geek/nerd/swot/boffin in schools has had the implication of making it less attractive to study hard (Francis 2009, Jackson & Nyström, 2015). This is especially true for male students who do a balancing act to not be categorised as a geek or nerd (Asp-Onsjö & Öhrn, 2015; Nyström, 2012; Peltola & Phoenix, 2022). Different negative traits are connected to the geek label, such as not caring what to wear and not being sporty, and sometimes boys perform purposely less well in school to avoid this label (Nyström 2012). At the same time as this geek figure is ‘congenitally uncool’ the geek figure has always been strongly connected to science, technology and computer science, and the position of being a genius (Willey & Subramaniam, 2017). The idea of brilliant geekiness has been so powerful that people seeking to hire computer programmers have looked for signs of it as proof of intelligence and programming ability (Kendal 1999). The geek figure, the awkward genius, primarily white and male, has thus gatekeeping functions in technology.

However, over the last decades the geek label has shifted significantly: from historically being associated with mockery and an outsider position, the geek has become increasingly dominant both in popular media as well as in economic and cultural structures (Salter and Blodget, 2017; Tocci 2009). This shift is partly displayed in how geeks are celebrated in real life, for example Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but also how the geek figure has become a central one in popular media. The geek entrepreneur in movies such as Iron man and The Social Network answers ‘contemporary tensions within masculinity and capitalism’ (Mendick et al, 2021, p. 2). According to Tocci (2009), there are four overlapping images of geeks today: the Geek as a misfit, the Geek as a genius, the Geek as a fan and ‘Geek as chic’. The Geek as a misfit has low status and is awkward and the Geek as a genius (with the example of Bill Gates) is passionate about technology. Both these images are in line with how a geek has traditionally been conceived before. However, the Geek as a fan is described as into geeky hobbies (such as games, science-fiction, and other traditionally geeky media), but with a ‘shared sense of childlike playfulness, and potentially a purposeful resistance against broader norms of maturity’ (p. 322), which is not necessarily a low status position. The image of Geek as chic makes it not just okay to be a geek, but it is actually a high-status position, the geeks are thought to represent their own hip subculture of sorts and their own sense of style. 

How big this shift or movement is around the geek figure is contested and needs to be investigated, especially how the limits and borders have changed in relation to race and gender. There is also an urgent need to address if the geek figure still operates as gatekeeper to technology education. The aim of this study is to explore this shift around the geek figure by interviewing Swedish teenagers about what they think about geeks and geekiness today.  

Methods/methodology: We did group interviews with 32 students doing their third year in upper secondary school, all being 18-19 years old. These 32 students, 21 boys and 11 girls, were classmates in three different school programmes: the Natural Science Programme, the Technology Programme and the Social Science Programme. The students were asked about what a geek is and how it is possible to know if someone is a geek. We also asked if they saw themselves as geeks and if there are any good or bad sides of being a geek. To prompt them to speak of geekiness, we showed them four clips of people handling technology from four US films: Men in Black (1997) featuring Agent J, The Social Network (2010) a biopic of Mark Zuckerberg, Age of Ultron (2015) with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and The Black Panther (2018) with the Princess of Wakanda Shuri teasing her brother T’Challa/Black Panther.

In our analysis we focused on how the geek figure was positioned by the students in the interviews, how the students related to the geek figure themselves and how the movie characters in the four selected clips were perceived by the students. The first step in our analysis was, after listening to all the interviews carefully, to select instances where geekiness or geeks were described, looking for storylines of geekiness: How do the students position the geek figure? Positioning is the discursive process that people use in conversations to arrange social structures (Davies and Harré, 1990), where positionings can be deliberate, inadvertent, presumptive or taken for granted (Harré et al., 2009). Positionings are always twofold, in that a positioning of someone else also implies a positioning of oneself, so what they express about geeks gives us clues about their own relationship to geekiness. Storylines that are linked to cultural contexts beyond the actual conversation unfold as participants are engaged in positioning themselves and others (Davies and Harré, 1990; Harré and Langenhove, 1999), for example that the geek has suffered and has unhealed wounds (Mendick et al, 2021) or the idea of STEM being a meritocracy (Willey & Subramaniam, 2017). We also analysed how the movie characters Agent J, Mark Zuckerberg, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and Shuri and T’Challa were positioned by the students, with a special focus on race and gender.

Expected outcomes/results: Our results illustrate how upper secondary Swedish students position geeks as belonging to one of two storylines: The storyline of the modern geek where it is cool to be a geek and the position is non-gendered and non-racialised, and The storyline of the stereotypical geek where the geek is white, male, socially awkward, and primally interested in technology. Since the students use the word ‘stereotypical’ when they talk about the low-status geek it is tempting to believe that this position is only a remnant of timed passed, but this storyline is still active in their narratives. For example, they position people at their own school as stereotypical geeks. These two storylines were interlinked. In the storyline of the modern geek the geek position is open for everyone, but this idea was simply not coherent with how many students did not let the character Shuri pass as a geek. The arguments for not positioning her as a geek (apart from being a woman and black), were that Shuri was too good-looking, too well-dressed and too social. Among all the characters we presented to participants, the character of Shuri was the one the students perceived as least authentic. This is interesting, because they continued saying that ‘[today] anyone can become a geek’ and that gender, race, class, and sexuality have no significance. In our reading, this parallel view of what a geek is keeps the myth of a geek meritocracy (Willey & Subramaniam, 2017) intact, at the same time as they clearly were more hesitant to position black women as geeks. Therefore, our data indicates that hopes that the pluralized modern geek position, i.e. ‘the geek is chic’ (Tocci, 2009) will provide a gateway into STEM for black female students are not well-founded.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
EERA, 2023
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-214238 (URN)
Conference
ECER 2023, European conference on educational research, Glasgow, UK, August 22-25, 2023
Available from: 2023-09-08 Created: 2023-09-08 Last updated: 2023-09-11Bibliographically approved
Junkala, H., Berge, M. & Silfver, E. (2022). Diversity in sex and relationship education – limitations and possibilities in Swedish biology textbooks. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 22(5), 521-537
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diversity in sex and relationship education – limitations and possibilities in Swedish biology textbooks
2022 (English)In: Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, ISSN 1468-1811, E-ISSN 1472-0825, Vol. 22, no 5, p. 521-537Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Shortcomings in sex and relationship education (SRE) related to norms and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexuality (LGBTQIA) perspectives have been reported internationally and in Sweden. This paper reports on findings from a critical study of SRE content in Swedish biology textbooks for 13- to 16-year-old pupils, with the aim of revealing which sexual orientations and bodies are made visible or invisible in the texts. About 200 quotations were selected and analysed, quantitatively and qualitatively, with a focus on limitations and possibilities. The results show that LGBT content is visible in all SRE chapters. However, sexual orientation is often constructed as fixed. Furthermore, stereotypical gender binaries are reinforced via heteronormative assumptions regarding hormones, genitals and reproduction, focusing on differences instead of similarities, and thus limiting the‌ potential to widen non-binary perceptions of bodies and sexualities. Our quantitative analyses reveal that there are few, if any, queer, intersex, asexual or crip/disability representations. If gaps in young people’s knowledge regarding norms, intersex, asexuality, queer and crip sexualities are to be filled in order to promote equality and diversity, it is important to rethink the SRE content of Swedish biology textbooks.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2022
Keywords
crip, heteronormativity, queer, Sexualities, textbooks
National Category
Gender Studies Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-187934 (URN)10.1080/14681811.2021.1966407 (DOI)000698221900001 ()2-s2.0-85115264403 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2021-09-27 Created: 2021-09-27 Last updated: 2023-12-19Bibliographically approved
Silfver, E., Gonsalves, A. J., Danielsson, A. T. & Berge, M. (2022). Gender equality as a resource and a dilemma: interpretative repertoires in engineering education in Sweden. Gender and Education, 34(8), 923-939
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gender equality as a resource and a dilemma: interpretative repertoires in engineering education in Sweden
2022 (English)In: Gender and Education, ISSN 0954-0253, E-ISSN 1360-0516, Vol. 34, no 8, p. 923-939Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article explores how female university students’ abilities to present themselves as ‘authentic’ engineers are imbricated with discursive constructions of gender and gender equality. The empirical data comes from interviews and video diaries collected with three female engineering students. The analysis demonstrates the power of the Swedish gender equality discourse to inform the students’ talk as they negotiate their gendered identities to become intelligible as engineering students and engineers. We suggest that gender equality is used as a resource in the repertoires, but we also demonstrate that this discourse becomes a dilemma in that it limits possibilities for gender performances to go beyond old patterns. Despite this, the article still shows three unique ways of negotiating gender and other social categories in different situations connected to university learning and participation in internships.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2022
Keywords
Women engineering students, negotiations, ‘authentic’ engineers, gender equality discourse
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-186655 (URN)10.1080/09540253.2021.1963419 (DOI)000682368200001 ()2-s2.0-85112670456 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2021-08-16 Created: 2021-08-16 Last updated: 2022-12-30Bibliographically approved
Pettersson, G., Ström, K., Silfver, E., Knutsen, O. & Dahlgren, I. (2021). Gemensamma Vägar: gränslöst nordiskt "praktiknära" specialpedagogiskt samarbete. In: Gerd Pettersson; Oddbjørn Knutsen; Eva Silfver; Kristina Ström (Ed.), Praktiknära pedagogisk forskning i det lärande nordiska nätverket Gemensamma Vägar: en antologi (pp. 7-10). Umeå: Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gemensamma Vägar: gränslöst nordiskt "praktiknära" specialpedagogiskt samarbete
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2021 (Swedish)In: Praktiknära pedagogisk forskning i det lärande nordiska nätverket Gemensamma Vägar: en antologi / [ed] Gerd Pettersson; Oddbjørn Knutsen; Eva Silfver; Kristina Ström, Umeå: Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet , 2021, p. 7-10Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, 2021
Series
Pedagogiska rapporter från Pedagogiska institutionen, ISSN 1403-6169 ; 100
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-189010 (URN)9789178555611 (ISBN)
Available from: 2021-11-01 Created: 2021-11-01 Last updated: 2021-11-01Bibliographically approved
Pettersson, G., Knutsen, O., Silfver, E. & Ström, K. (Eds.). (2021). Praktiknära pedagogisk forskning i det lärande nordiska nätverket Gemensamma Vägar: en antologi. Umeå: Umeå universitet
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Praktiknära pedagogisk forskning i det lärande nordiska nätverket Gemensamma Vägar: en antologi
2021 (Swedish)Collection (editor) (Refereed)
Abstract [sv]

I den här boken presenteras olika forsknings- och utvecklingsprojekt om lärande, lärmiljöer, profession och digitalisering inom det utbildningsvetenskapliga fältet. Boken ger en mångfasetterad bild av vad, hur och varför forskning och utvecklingsarbete är essentiellt för att skapa ny kunskap och fördjupad förståelse för hur förskolan, skola och utbildning kan utvecklas, men också hur forskning och beprövad erfarenhet behöver förenas. Vi som varit engagerade i bokens tillkomst kommer från Sverige, Norge eller Finland men gemensamt är arbete inom skola/förskola och utbildning på olika sätt. Flera av kapitlen har ett särskilt fokus på specialpedagogiska frågor vilket är en av de saker som genom åren fört oss samman under konferensen Gemensamma Vägar, vars syfte är att deltagarna skall få tillgång till forskning och pedagogisk kompetens som finns vid de nordligaste universiteten i Sverige, Norge och Finland. Vi hoppas och tror att boken blir värdefull för dig som är lärare, forskare, eller student och som intresserar dig för att bidra till arbetet att utveckla skola och undervisning.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2021. p. 188
Series
Pedagogiska rapporter från Pedagogiska institutionen, ISSN 1403-6169 ; 100
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-188927 (URN)978-91-7855-561-1 (ISBN)
Note

2021-12-15: Reviderad version med rättning av stavfel. 

Available from: 2021-10-27 Created: 2021-10-27 Last updated: 2021-12-15Bibliographically approved
Silfver, E., Maritha, J., Arnell, L., Bertilsdotter-Rosqvist, H., Härgestam, M., Sjöberg, M. & Widding, U. (2020). Classroom bodies: affect, body language, and discourse when schoolchildren encounter national tests in mathematics. Gender and Education, 32(5), 682-696
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Classroom bodies: affect, body language, and discourse when schoolchildren encounter national tests in mathematics
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2020 (English)In: Gender and Education, ISSN 0954-0253, E-ISSN 1360-0516, Vol. 32, no 5, p. 682-696Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this paper is to analyse how Swedish grade three children are discursively positioned as pupils when they are taking national tests in mathematics and when they reflect on the testing situation afterwards. With support from theories about affective-discursive assemblages, we explore children's body language, emotions, and talk in light of the two overarching discourses that we believe frame the classroom: the 'testing discourse' and the 'development discourse'. Through the disciplinary power of these main discourses children struggle to conduct themselves in order to become recognized as intelligible subjects and 'ideal pupils'. The analysis, when taking into account how affects and discourses intertwine, shows that children can be in 'untroubled', 'troubled', or ambivalent subject positions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2020
Keywords
affective-discursive assemblages, grade three children, ‘ideal’ pupils, mathematics tests, power
National Category
Pedagogy Nursing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-147753 (URN)10.1080/09540253.2018.1473557 (DOI)000545165600008 ()2-s2.0-85047142041 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-05-17 Created: 2018-05-17 Last updated: 2021-11-23Bibliographically approved
Projects
The Geek as gatekeeper? Changing relations between gender, race and technology [2018-03401_VR]; Umeå University; Publications
Ottemo, A., Berge, M., Mendick, H. & Silfver, E. (2024). Geek nostalgia: the reflective and restorative defence of white male geek culture. New Media and SocietyOttemo, A., Berge, M., Mendick, H. & Silfver, E. (2023). Gender, passion, and 'sticky' technology in a voluntaristically-organized technology makerspace. Engineering Studies, 15(2), 101-121Berge, M., Mendick, H., Andreas, O. & Silfver, E. (2023). Walking the line of being a geek or not: race, gender and re-surfacing stereotypes. In: ECER 2023: Programme. Paper presented at ECER 2023, European conference on educational research, Glasgow, UK, August 22-25, 2023. EERAMendick, H., Berge, M., Silfver, E. & Ottemo, A. (2020). Popular culture geeks, suffering, revenge and mathematics. In: : . Paper presented at BSRLM Autumn Conference 2020, Virtual, November 14, 2020. , 40
Ann Phoenix, Institute of Education, University College, London [2018-00341_VR]; Umeå University
Organisations
Identifiers
ORCID iD: ORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0001-6413-6538

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