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The Geek as gatekeeper? Changing relations between gender, race and technology

Research project Current initiatives to widen participation in technology are not succeeding and novel research is key to diversifying the field.

This project aims to trace how the figuration of 'the geek' includes and excludes and how its shifting articulations are transforming available identities in technology education.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2019-01-01 2022-12-31


Swedish Research Council (VR)

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

  • Project members
    Maria Berge
    Associate professor

    External project members

    Heather Mendick,
    Independant researcher, London
    Twitter: @helensclegel 
    Heather Mendick works as a freelance academic focusing on science, mathematics and technology; equity issues; youth aspirations and choices; and the relationship between learning and popular culture. She is the author or co-author of three books: Masculinities in Mathematics, Urban Youth and Schooling and Celebrity, Aspiration and Contemporary Youth. She has published widely, blogs irregularly on education and politics, and tweets from @helensclegel. She still does a bit of maths teaching, is trying to learn Spanish, is excited by the growing popularity of veganism and spends most of her free time trying to secure a Corbyn-led Labour government.

    Andreas Ottemo,
    Department of Education and Special Education, University of Gothenburg


    Andreas personal page at GU:



Project description

The geek, often derided but also identified as stereotype and gatekeeper of technology in educational research, is on the rise today, increasingly linked to entrepreneurialism and success. Hence, this is study is timely. We break with previous studies in not contending with rejecting the geek, instead exploring the logics at play in gendering and racialising the geek and 'his' passion for technology through looking outside formal education.

The four-year project consists of three sub-studies, each analysing a context with both traditional geek representations and spaces where the geek is re-articulated and resisted. These are: Popular culture (film, TV and their viewing); Open source coding/gaming communities (weekend gatherings and on-line); Higher Education (student clubs/events). We will produce data using ethnographic methods including group/individual interviews and participant observation. Our ambition is to deconstruct the geek, locating its conflicting discourses. We will thus shed light on its pluralisation and its gatekeeper role in passionate relationships to technology. Our findings will create openings to widen participation in technology.

Blogg and twitter


Publication https://www.academia.edu/

Contesting hegemonic masculinity: the evil tech entrepreneur in film

Heather Mendick, independent academic, London, UK; Andreas Ottemo, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden; Eva Silfver, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden; Maria Berge, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

Latest update: 2024-02-29