What I keep thinking about Codes of Conduct is they’re wonderful, but they lack ambition.
Because at heart, what are we saying here?
You really ought not to egregiously insult or threaten people, especially if they’re part of a vulnerable or minority group, and double-especially if your insults or threats are grounded in their membership in that group. In fact you should try to think about how your words might affect people before you say them. And maybe while you’re at it, learn enough about people from a variety of backgrounds that you can think usefully about how your words might affect them, even if it isn’t how those same words would affect you.
As the metaphor goes, what? For that you want a cookie?
I keep thinking, codes of conduct are a first step (and an important one, and sometimes a shockingly hard one), but what I really want from my conferences is xenia.
This is old, right? Lots of cultures have had their hospitality myth. But the form I know is ancient Greek. “Guest-friendship”. The ritual and kindness and hospitality shown a stranger, the connections that bind people across political and generational chasms in an age before strong communications technology.
The knowledge that the stranger whom you welcome may be a god in disguise.
I’m not good at hospitality. And I’m getting worse as I become better-known in my particular conference circuit; the number of people I absolutely must spend time with at any given conference now well exceeds the time I have to spend, and somewhere in there, amid the blur of social obligations and old friends I see only a handful of times a year, I need to make time for the stranger? Now that I have some power in a space I need to use it to hold doors open, to hold spaces themselves open, to make sure new people and ideas and experiences can constantly come in and make it their space, too, shaped around themselves as well as me? Now that I have my subgroup I have to keep looking for ways to connect to other subgroups, to be about crosslinking instead of calcification? And all of it while I actually am the introvert who needs some space to hide each day, who goes home and crashes out for twelve straight hours because the way I do conferences is already overwhelming?
That’s what I find myself taking away from the code of conduct idea more and more, now. That if I test a new space I want an obvious indication that it will be hospitable to me; that if a space is in some sense mine I have an obligation to make it hospitable to others. That the gods walk among us in more guises than we instinctively recognize, and part of our obligation as co-creators of spaces for humans is to suspend disbelief and learn to recognize.
4 thoughts on “where I’m at with Codes of Conduct these days”
Thanks for writing about this! It is a reminder of this nagging guilt I can sometimes feel after confereces. As a graduate student, conferences were intimidating and I was always so grateful to professionals who made time to speak/sit with me. As a more experienced conference attendee, who is an introvert, who sees it as a time to catch up with people I don’t frequently see: I could do more to be more generous with my time to students and other new faces. I will do more.
Actually, I see a code of conduct as something quite different. It is a baseline of minimum social conduct, based on the assumption that human beings don’t always get the training they need at home.
The hospitality ideal of which you speak is something that references the code of conduct, but is far beyond the bare minimum.
That was exactly what I was saying in my first sentence.