By Kenneth Lipp
“The only thing better than a good magic trick…a bad magic trick,” proclaimed Joel Hodgson to a crowd of audibly-agreeing nerddom. The creator of as well as original and by far the best human member of the ensemble in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 (we’re sure he’s done other stuff too that’s good which he’d love us to talk about, but he did Mystery Science Theater 3000 so what’s the point?), held-up before the audience in the Academy of Natural Sciences’ auditorium a copy of the Bucks County Intelligencer newspaper, with which he planned to blow some minds before announcing the 2014 Philly Geek Awards Geek of the Year. After sufficiently rending the newsprint into tattered sixteenths, “a product of your imagination,” Hodgson assured the crowd (as he scattered torn bits, “fragments of your imagination”), he unfolded a whole and unmarred edition as if from thin air. The understated prestige was met with howls of delight from the crowd, the most attention paid to a Philly-area print daily in years.
Winners in 13 categories plus a Geek of the Year were read mostly from iPhones. A few selections:
Scientist of the Year, an awesome title, is Genevieve Dion. She’s a professor of fashion design at Drexel University, and among other things works with automated weaving technology that bears analogy to 3-D printing.
Erin Bernard lauded a whole community’s contributions to the Philly History Truck, winner of the year’s best IRL Project, which had help from a neighborhood association president who lent his truck to help get the program started.
Funeral for a Home, Event of the Year, was featured by The Declaration’s Joshua Albert in May, when the Mantua home was eulogized and demolished. The block-party sacrament was a tribute to the spirit of the neighborhood that the century-old home represented, said project creators Steven and Billy Dufala.
And the Winner –
“I’m a black geek, and a lot of that is mysterious to the media. You get what I’m saying?”* said Jason Richardson, Geek of the Year, to a rapt audience that included the cast of his podcast the Black Tribbles, and his wife and mother (we snapped some photos of the bunch before the ceremony). While in my experience a nerdy black guy is nothing new – at my school the black kids looked like they were dressed by wardrobe for the Cosby Show and if anything were the most studious of my peers – the white-boy’s club status of the tech industry is evident in the numbers and being ever more challenged by marginalized innovators.
Richardson, whose projects include JI-CON, Philadelphia’s anime convention, and Cosplay Prom, Philadelphia’s Cosplay prom, lamented the lack of opportunity for black youth to involve themselves in technology, as well as the sacrifice of cultural identity that the geek community often requires of its outsiders for admission into clique 2.o.
*an earlier publication of this article quoted Richardson as having said “I’m a black geek, to a lot of white people that’s a very mysterious thing” and has been corrected
“A lot of kids that do get involved, they lose their color,” said Richardson.
For a full list of this year’s winners, check out Newsworks’ post, and enjoy the following photos from Saturday’s red carpet and ceremony.