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Gender and the emergence of the ‘geek celebrity’ in young people’s celebrity talk in England

Heather Mendick, Kim Allen, Laura Harvey


In this paper, our two starting points are the growing policy focus on encouraging coding or computer programming as an aspiration for young people and the entrenched gendering of participation in computing. Drawing on group and individual interviews with 148 young people across England, we argue that the ‘geek celebrity’ is an emerging figure in young people’s imaginations, as an aspirational and inspirational ‘role model’. Using discursive psychological approaches, we analyse the ‘geek celebrity’ as a discursive formation looking at three key patterns of meanings, or repertoires, and tracking the ways these are gendered. First, the business repertoire positions the geek celebrity as a source of social innovation, impact and initiative. These traits are viewed universally positively by young people and are normatively masculine. Second, the celebrity repertoire positions the geek celebrity as having huge wealth and status. Through their philanthropic use of these, together with their associations with business and intelligence, geek celebrities are seen as deserving of their celebrity. Finally, the geek repertoire positions the geek celebrity as highly intelligent and socially awkward, traits that are aligned with masculinity culturally. This impacts on how young men and women speak about them.



Bill Gates, coding, computing, ethnicity, geeks, gender, new media work, social class, technology, YouTubers

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