Within the world of academia, you will find all sorts of people with all sorts of interests and backgrounds. Outside of the academic discussions, in most social situations, you will find that colleagues and scholars will discuss a variety of hobbies, topics and interests that are relatively intellectual, with an intermixing of topics that would seem normal to anyone listening.
While discussions with my colleagues and those I meet at conferences somehow always incorporate our research, people in academia are not simply disconnected from the real world and only talk about their research. Many of my academic friends and colleagues are active outdoorsmen(people), that are involved in kayaking, marathons, rock climbing and motorcycles, and in their spare time travel the world, take cooking classes, and read books that are not related to their research. I would have to say that the belief that academics are stuck in their ivory towers and that they do not interact with the world around them has become obsolete. Now I won’t argue that I know a few individuals who cloister themselves in their research for months at a time with little interaction with the outside world, but they are becoming far and few between.
Now, where do I fit in to all of this? Being an academic is not the only part of my life obviously, and in conversations with colleagues we discuss many similar hobbies or interests, yet the concept of a geek and gamer within the academic world seems to fall flat on its face. When I even mention the three words World of Warcraft, I get confused looks and almost consolatory furrowed brows that seem to say “I thought you were smart?…”. It is more than frustrating to discuss my geeky hobbies with non-geek academics, as they don’t see how the two can mesh.
The fact that I like to game, play with technology and read comics does not preclude my ability to be intellectual and do legitimate research. Since when does liking to immerse oneself in blogging, gaming or any technological focus make one dumber than someone who plays board games or goes to a baseball game?
I would like to clear the air here: it is completely possible to be a geek and an academic at the same time! Instead of watching television to relax at the end of a workday, I play World of Warcraft or read the newest comic issue that just arrived at my local comic shop. My hobbies may include cosplaying, playing video games, and watching YouTube videos about some of most geeky things in music, but really, those actually help my research in multimodal literacies. From an educational perspective, my embracing emerging technologies and media is actually conducive to understanding how communication and learning really have transformed in the 21st Century.
So next time someone scoffs at my reading a graphic novel, going to a comic convention or learning a new program on my Mac in my spare time, I have the perfect rebuttal: It is all a part of my academic research! Hah!
Well, I’m off to go do some research. Yep, to read a book on Digital Media Ethics (Digital Media and Society Series) and then read Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers. They are informative, interesting and wait… a little geeky. But in all reality, they are a part of my research interests and hobbies combined!