Nerd Field Report: Firefly, Nerd Nite, Icebox Radio Theatre, Arts Advocacy

It was a week for several varieties of Nerd for me. First, Browncoat Mondays brought me to hear Chris Etheridge give an opening presentation that was charming as well as informative (about life since Firefly). Tuesday brought my own presentation (about Listening) to Nerd Nite, as well as presentations about women in video games and about British “panel quiz shows.”

Emily Woster’s talk about quiz shows included reference to my favorite episode of “Never Mind the Buzzcocks,” with David Tennant as host. Emily is awesome, and a gifted presenter, as was the passionate Sam Bauer.

My own talk was really guerilla education. While I talked about nerdly 19th century listening machines (including the phonautograph, which was build using parts from cadaverous ears), that was the frame to introduce a listening-self-assessment test, which allowed each person to identify their preferred listening style:

People-oriented listeners. Chairs who are predominantly people-oriented listeners are perceived as nurturing and caring. They will spend hours chatting about personal issues, know the names of friends’ spouses and children and tend to be liked. This affinity for people can prove frustrating, however, as people-oriented listeners have difficulty accomplishing tasks and struggle with tough decisions.

Action-oriented listeners. Action-oriented listeners are very confident and believe they know the best way to get a task done. They are focused on solving problems and are generally extremely productive. Problems arise when others feel they are more concerned with projects than people.

Content-oriented listeners. Collecting data and playing devil’s advocate are two of the strengths of content-oriented listeners. Typical content-oriented listeners avoid taking risks, enjoy lengthy meetings, and are experts in seeing how each detail of a project fits into the whole picture.

Time-oriented listeners. Like action-oriented listeners, time-oriented listeners are able to complete their work tasks efficiently. They are addicted to their daytimers and to-do lists. Time-oriented coworkers must work hard to carve out “listening time” and display open nonverbal listening behavior. (Adapted from here)

Discussing listening is always fun. Listening is something everyone does but they rarely reflect on it; it’s fun to do that with others. Especially as people see new gaps in the four-part typology and as people start to hypothesize the ways that gender and other social constructs impact listening styles.

At the talk, someone asked me what my favorite sound was. I could have offered the nerd answer (“the sound of the TARDIS materializing)…

…but the real answer would have been hard to tell an audience. It’s the sound of someone whispering in my ear, the way that the sound and the breath touch the ear at the same time.

Oddly enough, or maybe not, since it’s my life we are talking about, Jeff Adams, artistic director of Icebox Radio Theatre (IBRT) in International Falls, MN, and Diane Adams, director of the International Falls Public Library, talked to UMD students about the future of digital creativity.

I listen to Icebox Radio Theatre, and I love it. Jeff invited us to think about the profound intimacy of radio and podcasting — the idea that podcasting allows someone as close to us as anyone can be — a voice in a headphone is as close as anyone can be, normally, unless they are a parent or a spouse. Like those whispers…

IBRT is more the creativity; it is allowing a community enduring immense economic and social change to recraft itself, to rebrand its identity, through the creation of art.

Art was the subject of my Thursday, where I spent about four hours walking the capitol in St. Paul to thank our state legislators for their support as part of Arts Advocacy Day. I drove down with two staff and two other volunteers for ARAC. One of them worked with the Tweed Museum, the other with the Two Harbors Community Radio and the Chalk Festival, Michelle Ronning. We met up with the founder of the Duluth-Superior Film Festival, too. While these folks would resist the “nerd” term (rarely or never liking Dr. Who, for example), if Wil Wheaton is right, and being a nerd is not about what you love but about how you love it, these are art nerds.

Whether at Nerd Nite, Browncoat Mondays, UMD / Icebox Radio Theatre, or Arts Advocacy Day, we can “love [our] thing enthusiastically, completely, unironically, without fear of judgement,” as Will Wheaton says. We can be nerds.

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