I passed my dissertation defense. So here is the abstract from my dissertation:
Utilizing ethnographic methods, this work examines how attendees of computer gaming events held by the Gaming@IU club form a community that uses technology to bring people together rather than isolate them. It also analyzes the ways attendees perform unique forms of Whiteness and “nerd masculinity.” The primary data is drawn from LAN parties, computer gaming events where approximately 200 participants collocate their computers and play videogames with and against each other for up to twenty-four hours. Drawing on six years of fieldwork, this work uses participant observation and interviews to examine how LAN party attendees use the computer gaming events to create what Ray Oldenburg calls a “third place” away from work and school where friendships can be created and maintained.
On the basis of this data, the dissertation further examines the ways in which the statements of the LAN party attendees draw on a discourse of racial colorblindness as a way of dealing with the overwhelming Whiteness of these events, which is not reflective of the racial and ethnic diversity of the area. The work shows how an avoidance of discussion of Whiteness prevents the attendees from interrogating the role the LAN party’s organization may play in the racial makeup of attendees.
Focusing on male LAN party attendees interactions with female attendees, within gaming, this study also looks at the ways in which both the games played and the social norms of the LAN party encourage the performance of hegemonic masculinity while playing the videogames but allow the attendees to inhabit a more complicit form of masculinity which is not overtly sexist. The dissertation argues that by embracing non-normative masculinity outside the games but discouraging it within the games, the LAN party participants are professing openness and acceptance but are failing to live up to that ideal.