A costumed character wanders the downtown streets during the Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 30 August 2013.(Photo: Erik S. Lesser, EPA)
By David Schick, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent
Every year, Atlanta hosts one of the largest conventions for
everything nerd - from science fiction to fantasy, comics to gaming and
This Labor Day weekend, Dragon Con will draw about
50,000 participants from all over the world looking to engage in their
fandom of choice. This year, two professors from East Tennessee State
University will conduct research into the art of cosplay.
for "costume play," cosplay is the act of dressing up as your favorite
fictional character from sources such as comics, anime, TV shows and
films -an activity that an abundance of Dragon Con members take part in.
Professors Andrew Dunn and Andrew Herrmman from ETSU will conduct
interviews during the convention to find out more about this distinctive
hobby. Their mission, according to Dunn, is to find out "what it is
about cosplayers and why they identify with these characters."
Dunn and Herrmman say their goal is to survey at least 200 people while observing the "geeks" in their natural habitat.
Erin White, a senior from the Savannah College of Art and Design's
Atlanta campus, cosplay adds a "deeper level of dedication" to her
When she dresses up, she picks up a wand and dons the robes of a Slytherin House Hogwarts student from the Harry Potter series.
"It's where being a fan becomes being a fanatic," White says. "Plus, costumes are basically always fun."
and Herrmman's quantitative survey will look mostly at cosplay but will
also encompass fandom in general and what specifically what draws these
people to Dragon Con.
"There's a sense of community here that you don't find elsewhere," Dunn says.
The communication professor says that hours before he arrived at the convention, he was lecturing on social media.
"This is social media in reality," he says.
to Dunn, he drew inspiration for his research from other studies, which
measure why video gamers choose a specific avatar over another and from
survey questions about what makes people choose their sports
"When I was growing up, being a nerd or geek was a bad thing," Herrmman says. "Now you wear it as a badge of honor."
Dunn says geek culture has permeated every facet of pop culture and the two have begun to overlap.
offers a unique thespian course over the summer semester that teaches
cosplay with a focus on "acting for the convention goer."
SCAD, there are groups that will cosplay everyday to school," White
says. "To each their own, but I think it's more exciting when used
"There's some places like ETSU where they teach
cosplaying, but there's not a lot of places, that I know of, where they
do cosplay research," Herrmman says. "We're trying to fill the gap."