Social Interaction Badges at WisCon 39: Part 2

WisCon is a medium-sized convention, capped at 1,000 members, focused on feminist science fiction and fantasy.  Our members come from all over the country and world.  This year we introduced social interaction badges, which are explained in the previous post.

The badges were quite popular.  We set them near the plastic badge holders and had to reprint the “green” and “white” cards several times during the convention because we ran out.  Many people only took green or white cards.  I forgot to explain that people could take all four cards as a set and rotate through them during the convention.  During our end-of-con feedback session, one person suggested that we put out the cards as sets, with a paperclip keeping them together, which means more prep time but is a great idea.  However, I think some people do want to use just one or two colors the whole time, which is also fine.

Many people come to SF conventions to be social, and many geeks (I surmise) are a bit shy, which is why the green cards went fast.  Some people did not know if the green card meant “I am OK with talking to people” or if it meant “Please talk to me.”

I realized on the first day of the convention that the “white” card had awkward racial connotations.  We talk about race a lot at WisCon which is refreshing, awesome, and sometimes uncomfortable.  So I looked down at the white card I was wearing and went “um, oops, it looks like I am referring to race here….”  It was too late to change it, but next year we will change this to a different color or pattern, such as blue, purple, or plaid.

People seemed to like the clarity of the “stoplight” system of colors.  There is a universal quality to these colors; they are used in airports and are easy to understand.  “White” was not quite as clear.  One person said she took the white card in solidarity for others, and to make the cards less stigmatized, and only later realized she could have used the red, yellow, and green cards as social signals herself during the convention.

What did it mean when someone at the convention was not wearing an interaction badge?  One person said very thoughtfully that they would ask such a person if they were up for talking.

For myself, I really liked wearing the “white” interaction badge.  It was like telling myself that indeed, I can manage my own social interactions.  I can be assertive and use body language; I have practiced this and come a long way, largely because of WisCon and events like it.  I know enough people at WisCon that I did not feel I needed to wear the green card, but I wore a green one at SDS, where I did not know many people.  I am neurotypical, somewhat shy, and advocating these badges as part of universal design.

If you’ve used these badges, what was your experience like?

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5 thoughts on “Social Interaction Badges at WisCon 39: Part 2

  1. I used them all weekend and found they helped me be more social. I tend to get anxious and overwhelmed at cons, and having the option to visibly mark my level of social ability was a huge comfort. Wearing the green card around for most of the weekend felt like a safe, non-awkward way to put my interest in conversation out there. This was my best WisCon so far, socializing-wise, and I think the badges played a part in that.

  2. I like adding the fourth color rather than overloading green. I used a modification with red / yellow / green mini clothespins, marked with one, two, or three stripes, for Westercon this year, and shaded green to “It’s OK to talk to me” rather than “I would like to be talked to”, which was partially an attempt to universalize them, so their use would not itself be stigmatizing.

    Could you post a picture of yours in action? One reason I went with the clothespins is that having two badges just seems awkward.

    • Thanks for your comment! I like the “It’s OK to talk to me” language. I don’t think I got a photo of the cards in action this year, but will try to get one next year. I often put my camera away at WisCon and forget to take pictures.

  3. Pingback: Interaction Badges at WisCon 39: Part 1 | Access This! A Disability Blog

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