New Criticals

Such was the case with Unidan – who until recently was one reddit’s most popular celebrities. Unidan’s expertise was all things biology. His trademark opener “Biologist here” transitioned over time to “Unidan here” after the “excited biologist” became a regular feature in the site’s various subreddits (Fenn, 2013). Redditors often gifted his comments with Reddit Gold, submitted them to /r/bestof (a subreddit dedicated to showcasing the best of reddit comments), and mentioned him in various threads whenever a science-related question was raised. Unidan’s fame even spawned an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) segment where he answered questions about his research. In his non-reddit life, Unidan was better known as Ben Eisenkop, a doctoral candidate in biology at Binghamton University, and was even considered enough of a personality to have his own Wikipedia entry.

Unidan would be what scholars term a micro-celebrity (Marwick & boyd, 2011; Senft, 2013). As Alice Marwick and danah boyd (Marwick & boyd, 2011) argue, “Micro-celebrity can be understood as a mindset and set of practices in which audience is viewed as a fan base; popularity is maintained through ongoing fan management; and self-presentation is carefully constructed to be consumed by others” (p. 140). Unidan’s fame was mostly limited to reddit – but as his popularity grew, he performed celebrity in much the same way as other more notable celebrities might. Unidan would show up in threads when he was summoned, offering information about a bird someone posted to /r/pics or answering questions in /r/askreddit, all while collecting upvotes (karma) from redditors. He even had a fan club (/r/UnidanFans) and a Know Your Meme entry ( And he had received job offers and speaking gigs because of his fame. His popularity can be at least partially attributed to the fact that he represented a kind of geek masculinity that reddit reveres: deep interest all things STEM, a desire to share obscure and niche knowledge, and playfulness (Coleman, 2013; Kendall, 2002; Taylor, 2012).