ISSN : 2266-6060

Badges side down


Nantes, september 2013.

All participants did not attend this fascinating biennial conference simultaneously. Some of them have been there since the first day, others arrived later due to diverse reasons. Some attended the whole conference, participating in plenary and semi-plenary sessions, while others just left after their own talk. But all of them were supposedly inscribed to this conference. It was a condition to give a presentation or to listen to colleagues: participants previously paid some registrations fees. Before becoming such a full attendee — namely a keynote speaker, a session chair, a discussant, or a paper giver –, everyone had to cross the registration booth and experience this peculiar uncertain and stealth moment: when one’s personal identity has to be confirmed or proven with other documents. In the situation at hand, identification went through a simpler process than in customs inspections. The surname announced by a person had simply to match one of those written on the conference registered list. As soon as it has happened, each attendee has been given a paper bag, containing a city map, the conference program, and some lunch tickets. Then the transition from anonymity to a ratified identity was performed with a last simple gesture: a personal name-badge suddenly emerged from those of which one only could saw the white side. Displaying names and institutional affiliation, this mundane graphical artifact carried various information during face to face interaction. Not only each person confirmed her official status as a conference attendee, but simultaneously she gave clues to colleagues about her own position(s) in the academic reputation hierarchies. It might have been an interesting topic for this conference, but sociologists worthy of the name are always concerned with biggest and more serious social issues…

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