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Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

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Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  jimhabegger on Tue May 28, 2013 1:13 pm

I'm curious about what, if anything, is currently being done to make atheist conferences more accessible and friendly, to more people.

(edited to correct a possible misunderstanding)
I'm not endorsing anyone's allegations about anything that happens or doesn't happen at atheist conferences. I've never been to an atheist conference, and I haven't done any investigation at all into what happens at those conferences. Furthermore, I deplore the fire and smoke that permeates the allegations, as much as I deplore the fire and smoke that permeates the denials.

What I'm curious about is, what has anyone done who sees a need for the conferences to be more accessible and friendly, besides complaining about it, and telling other people what they should do?
(end edit)


Last edited by jimhabegger on Thu May 30, 2013 7:10 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : to correct a possible misunderstanding)

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  piginthecity on Tue May 28, 2013 9:25 pm

Jim -

If you really were curious about this you'd actually bother to go to one of these conferences or joining one of the organisations which do the work in organising them. If you were a member of say, JREF, American Atheists or NSS in the UK, then you could find out, in the context of that organisation, what decisions were being made about the practicalities of these events and you'd have your say if you thought things could be done better. You'd contribute.

What you wouldn't do is sit around on the internet as if these atheist conferences were some natural phenomena that had just sprung up out of the ether without anybody doing any work or thinking anything through awaiting your verdict as to whether, without even going to one, you're going to declare them unfriendly or unwelcoming.

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  jimhabegger on Wed May 29, 2013 12:44 am

piginthecity -

Razz to you too!

The reason I asked this question is because I saw a lot of talk from people promoting A+, about improving the environment at conferences, and I wondered if it ever went beyond publishing some policies. From the way I saw A+ promoters talking, I thought maybe there would be some initiatives to make the conferences more accessible to non-white people and people with disabilities for example.

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  piginthecity on Wed May 29, 2013 5:59 am

Jim -

I take it you know something about the organisations which run these events you're suddenly so interested in. For example, you'll know that American Atheists (to choose one at random) had their 50th anniversary this year. So that means 50 years of organising events amongst other things. I don't have to point out that their founder happened to be a woman, do I, because you'll already know that as, I feel that you might be kind of person who would find that very important.

So that's fifty years of organising. That's about forty eight years of organising things before Atheism Plus even existed.

You want to know whether their events are accessible for disabled people, well here's an idea. You've got the internet, you can google to find out the venue, then you can look at the venue's website and find out. Or you can phone up the venue and say you're disabled and ask them about the access. If I was a member of AA i'd be astonished if the officers were so incompetent as to fail to take accessibility into account.

So let's get this right. You haven't bothered to check this, but you've bought into the idea that, after 50 years, American Atheists need the help of this self appointed 'Deparment of Internal Affairs' for the atheist community to organise their conferences.

I guess you think i'm sticking my tongue out at you again, but here's the thing. When Atheism Plus and you get together do the work to organise your own conference, including making sure that it's accessible to everyone you want to attract, you'll have my support. I won't take seriously any lazy internet charlies who want to do you down by spreading this cheap stuff.

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  nullnvoid on Wed May 29, 2013 1:27 pm

I tend not to join in discussions on what rules are needed at atheist conferences - as I don't attend them. That said, rules of conduct aren't really implemented to deal with existing behaviour. They are generally claimed to be imposed to prevent specific types of behaviour from occurring in the first place. Having a rule against specific behaviour is not necessarily an indication that something like that has ever happened previously. I think mens groups have been somewhat disingenuous when they demand evidence that things are happening prior to rules being introduced.

It's a tough balancing act to get rules of conduct right - as if they are too strict they will push people away and if they're too weak there could be repercussions for organisers. To be frank - rules of conduct are usually imposed for legal and insurance reasons. They actually don't do anything to prevent the wrong type of behaviour from happening, but they protect the organisers from lawsuits and prison in the case of bad behaviour happening. In my experience, changes in process, not policy are what have an actual effect in the prevention of incidents.

I'd be interested to know if they can work as a method of improving diversity. My guess is that they don't - but they allow the organisers to look like they are in favour of diversity. But I could be proved wrong with the right kind of study...

Edit: I think the better way to make conferences more accessible to:

1) provide content that is of interest to the people you want to attract.
2) provide accurate information about the risk of danger likely to be encountered.
3) address real issues and change process (as opposed to policy) to prevent future recurrence.

And now I've done what I am normally reluctant to do...provided an opinion on something I don't have direct experience of. The accurate information idea is really important in any situation. If you want to make things better you have to start with the most detailed and accurate information about the current situation that you can have.

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  jimhabegger on Wed May 29, 2013 5:55 pm

Null, I agree with all that.

There's a discussion in the A+ forum about an accessibility checklist, which covers some of what I was wondering about. I'm still curious about how much is actually being done about any of that.

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  jimhabegger on Wed May 29, 2013 8:13 pm

piginthecity,

I've started a thread where we can discuss your personal issues with me, if you want to.

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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  piginthecity on Thu May 30, 2013 7:53 am

Jim -

You're a lovely lovely guy, and i give you credit for coming in here. You've put in the effort, your posts are well expressed and you're certainly sincere and you've thought the stuff through so I'll give you that. I probably was a bit of a churl having a go at you about the threads, i just thought you were doing that thing of starting a new thread instead of addressing points which people had made to you in response to other threads you started.

I'm the grumpy one in here. Ask Null. Ask mood. Those guys are better men than me, more patient and more polite. I'm the one who's the first to break through the cosy mutual appreciation and wheel out some internet snark if I think the situation calls for it.

I don't have 'issues' with you and I don't want to chase you away. I have enough respect for you to think you can take a bit of robust disagreement with the likes of me in your stride.

But we do disagree and here's why. The 'atheist misogyny' meme is easily spread. Likewise the 'atheist racism' meme. Innuendo is the best way of spreading these memes, and I don't trust the motives on anyone who seems intent on spreading them however casually. Especially casually. Anybody who peddles these, without being specific, without being able to back them up, especially if they cite dubious sources such as the A+ forum deserves a reply which is going to give them pause. Politeness not the priority.

I guess I'm an old school skeptic or something. If somebody makes a claim they've got to be prepared to back it up. No exceptions. So I'm a bit disappointed with you trying to play the 'personal issues' card, Jim. It doesn't do you credit. Because here's the thing. Now I've got the choice of either being told I've hurt your feelings and I'm a bad guy, or agree with you that, because people on the A+ forum say that there's these big problems with these conferences to which they (and you) have never been then there must be.

Well, I think you know what my choice will be. And it's not buying the Atheism plus style precious schoolgirl act !






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Re: Making conferences more accessible and friendly to more people

Post  jimhabegger on Thu May 30, 2013 3:37 pm

piginthecity,

You wrote:
Now I've got the choice of either being told I've hurt your feelings and I'm a bad guy, or agree with you that, because people on the A+ forum say that there's these big problems with these conferences to which they (and you) have never been then there must be.
I'm not feeling hurt, and I'm not thinking of you as a bad guy now. I'll say more about that in the issues thread.

I've added something to my original post in this thread, that might address your concerns about it. If not, let me know.

I'm not assuming there's any truth behind all the hyperbole, theatrics, demagoguery, and fire and smoke about women being mistreated at atheist conferences. I'm not assuming that there isn't. I'm not imagining that atheist conferences are any more hostile to anyone than any other conferences, and my ideas about the hostility of environments have nothing to do with anything I've read on the Internet. They're based on my own training and experience, including experience with other kinds of conferences. The only presumption I'm making is that in general atheists are no more socially advanced than the rest of society, and I've seen ample evidence of that in the blogs and Web sites of atheists.


Last edited by jimhabegger on Thu May 30, 2013 7:07 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Complete re-write)

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