During my first semester of graduate school, I took a course on theory development within college students. I learned about theories grounded in career development, religious development, and personal identity development. Within personal identity development I noticed a commonality between all the theories. I was taught to use theory as a base knowledge to understand a student better, being able to assess where each person was on the developmental level. As a self-named geek, I was determined to find other applicable identities for students to develop. Here is the "Wagner Geek Identity Development Model" (WGIDM) as seen through my own development.
Stage 1: Non-geek
During this stage, students do not consider themselves to be geeky. This was reflected during my first year of college. My interests were of movies and not much else. I did not have an overt affection towards video games, superheroes, or anything deemed “geeky” by society.
Stage 2: Open to Geek Culture
During this stage, students are opened up to the geek culture. In my second year of college, a fellow resident assistant took me to a comic book store and opened my mind to my favorite superhero, Green Lantern. This moment sparked an internal revolution into geekdom, leading into stage 3.
Stage 3: NooB
This stage is when geeks begin to make meaning of their identity. This can be seen through a new variety of one’s Netflix qeue, frequent trips to comic book stores or GameStop, and enhanced research on the geek culture. It is during this stage that individuals seek out groups of fellow geeks to validate their feelings and share in experiences.
Stage 4: Leroy Jenkins
During stage 4, individuals dive into the culture in an attempt to figure out what type of geek that person wants to be. For me, that resulted in watching YouTube videos about video games, downloading podcasts about Star Trek, and buying midnight premiere movie tickets.
Stage 5: Geek Chic
This stage revolves around individuals refining the type of geek they want to be. Folks have searched every outlet in an attempt to whittle down what geek really means to them. I finally decided that I did not know enough of World of Warcraft to try and become a level 70 goblin, however I knew I enjoyed superheroes and video games, so I stuck to where my true passions were.
Stage 6: Live Long and Prosper
This final stage can only be accomplished when a person fully admits to their geekdom. This stage occurs when one has accepted that they are a geek and has begun to integrate their geeky tendencies into their personal life. I was finally able to walk into the comic book store without feeling like an outsider, using superhero inspirations for door decorations for my residents.
Obviously with this theory comes one major critique: what does it mean to be a geek? This notion is relative for each individual person. To someone, a geek can only refer to science fiction novels, however to others being a geek can mean they are excited about woodworking. The term geek is open to interpretation. My own definition is that a geek is a person that understands a topic incredibly well and has become a true passion. No matter what the definition, this theory can serve as an opportunity for folks to assist their students in the development of their identities.
Remember, with great power comes great responsibility, so use it wisely.
Hey y'all! My name is Julie Wagner and I am a current graduate student in my second year of the College Student Personnel program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Currently I am working in Campus Activities and get to work with fantastic students and their organizations. I began my obsessions with higher education and geek culture in the fall of 2012 and have not stopped since. My bookshelves are equal parts graphic novels and development theory books. Connect with me on Twitter!