Nerdworld: The Quest for Escaping Suburbia By Lee Grant We live today in a world that has become faster

, sleeker and more aggressive; where expressions of the market economy appear to have become the primary purpose. Daily life then, is seemingly geared around keeping this juggernaut afloat. While 8-hour working days still exist, it is not uncommon for people to be working up to 70-hour weeks, often in multiple jobs.

How then do we juggle the stress of modernity when our lives become more about the welfare of the State than our own? The impact upon both family and community can be measured in the statistics of divorce and family breakdown, white-collar crime, addiction and the seemingly paranoid fortification of suburbia. Community, it seems, is no longer what it used to be. Or is it? Perhaps it has merely changed its colours? There are some new and unusual communities being forged in response to the pressures of the everyday. The key to these groups is recreation and entertainment but also, escapism.

The small country town of Parkes in New South Wales evidenced this last month. Parkes is a world away from Memphis, Tennessee, but on the 8th of January, the King¶s birthday, this little town¶s population almost doubled for the 16th annual Elvis Festival. In the past three years, more than 7,000 fans have converged on the town along with swarms of Elvis look-alikes in trademark polyester suits, usually enduring the stifling 40 C degree summer heat. At the time of the festival, media outlets across the country reported on Elvis and Priscilla "tragics" congregating in the "outback." The event was a lark, a blip on our news screens reporting on the world¶s seemingly never-ending tragedies. For those not participating in the event, it was silly and perhaps a little trite. However, for those deferent to the King, in their proud suits and immaculate, if sweat-drenched wigs, it was pure unadulterated worship. Despite the festival's good-time nature, there was no concealing the serious business of compulsive preening - or was it obsessive channelling?

The growing consumption and in many cases appropriation of alternative personalities and/or characters in the pursuit of leisure (think medievalists such as the Society for Creative Anachronism, gamers such as Second Lifers, WWE-type wrestlers, etc) is a

In these substitute realms. Predetermined rules and codified rituals further shape and determine membership into a group or society. Through role-playing. the appearance of which becomes integral to the success of the character they are trying to convey. people are able to form a collective sense of purpose where identity (marked by costume) and belonging (marked by interest) can sometimes be more liberating. is generated and enacted largely in the imagination of the roleplayers.. it makes sense that in the performance and enactment of fantasy dramas. exist primarily through their relationships with others. might use role-playing to improve and experiment with their primary ego. and even tend to define the self with reference to these outer relationships. The demographic of those who participate in role-playing can vary as much as their reasons for doing it. The introvert. studies suggest that a role-player¶s primary motive is to escape from social pressures encountered in their everyday life. Role-playing pursuits thus maintain social structures. . Regardless of what changes are made. ³it stands as a caricature of social life. Play. anything is possible . the player relates to his/her character and treats it as a version of the self. whose existence is tied primarily to the inner and solitary self. In contrast to the self as citizen drone. playing dress-ups and imagining fantastical worlds.. and let¶s face it. Lee Grant is an MPhil student at the ANU School of Art and a freelance photographer. Like the children they once were. then.phenomenon found particularly ± though not uniquely . often with a dress code or uniform. norms and values as well as a range of cultural symbols. alternative social interactions thus provide the platform from which an ideal self might emerge. However. though usually within a context and environment that ironically reflects much of their own cultural systems. a simplified and exaggerated reflection of mundane reality´.in more developed urban and suburban settings. Psychologists further suggest that there are two types who might enter the world of adult fantasy. What is intriguing about such leisure pursuits is that the people who invest in their µplay¶ characters usually interact in a fantasy setting. the extrovert can manipulate aspects of themselves by adding and/or omitting traits according to their fantasy. As academic John Hughes points out. on the other hand. Extroverts. more democratic and less consequential than in the µreal¶ world. it really is fun.