Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Rhonda Brock-Servais, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher McGee, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David Magill, Ph.D.


Turn on the television, open a book, or even walk down the street and you will no doubt notice at least one geek or nerd. Most Americans today have heard these terms, and each individual probably has his own working definition of what they mean. Unpacking those definitions, however, is tricky. What is a nerd? What is a geek? How does one identify a person as belonging to these groups? To analyze how modern culture understands geeks and nerds, one must first understand the history behind these terms. While most Americans today recognize and use the words "geek" and "nerd," there is a surprising lack of consensus as to what these terms mean. In his 2007 exploration of cultural perceptions of geeks and nerds, David Anderegg explores the varied perceptions of these terms, particularly among children, and his findings are fascinating. In speaking to children from early elementary school into adolescence, Anderegg found that while young people were intimately familiar with these terms, even to the point of fearing them, they could not articulate an actual definition. When asked to unpack what a geek or a nerd actually was, they gave incredibly varied answers, and sometimes gave no answers at all. So how then, without a concrete definition, does one become a geek or a nerd?



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