Phoenix Comicon’s Latest Survey Making Folks Feel Uncomfortable

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Phoenix Comicon’s Latest Survey Making Folks Feel Uncomfortable

It is not uncommon for a convention to follow up with its fans by emailing them with information and announcements for their upcoming events. In fact, these emails are often met with praise because it allows the convention attendees to be in the know about what they care about or even get to participate in making the event better by offering their opinions in surveys. So then why did so many people feel so uncomfortable yesterday when they opened the latest survey from Phoenix Comicon?

The email started out harmless enough, a simple man by the name of Connor Leshner introducing himself and letting recipients know that Phoenix Comicon allowed him to reach out to their email list with his survey that asks questions regarding relationships in the convention community, often involving cosplayers. The questions start off casual enough asking about your past relationships. Some of the questions were even endearing, asking about how big of an impact cosplay had on your attraction to your partner.

And then the questions become a bit more…spicy.

Admittedly, I did blush when the question came across my screen and can now see why so many of my peers chatted it up on Facebook. Some readers even reached out to me to write about this survey because it was so out of the blue and asked so many intimate questions. However not all of the questions were about romantic or sexual relationships, some of them asked about your personal feelings regarding the fandom we know and love.

Even some questions got pretty deep in regards to relationships!

I had flash backs to my previous breakups and how I handled them in order to honestly respond to the questions. It was an interesting survey to say the least and am looking forward to checking out the results if they are released to the public. I am always curious about how others in the cosplay community view certain social customs such as buying costumes or dating another person in the community.

At the same time, I think it may have been a better idea to ask folks if they’d like to be asked questions about their personal life before sending an email to them from an email address that is supposed to only send information and updates regarding Phoenix Comicon. While I didn’t mind receiving and answering the survey and would be open to more, I know others complained that they feel as though their information is being used for purposes other than what they agreed to.

UPDATE

(3/3/2017 1:52pm  AZ Time) Matthew Solberg, convention director for Phoenix Comicon gave his thoughts on the matter.

“Hi All,

Matthew Solberg, Convention Director here. I made a mistake. I apologize for the survey sent yesterday and if you were upset, offended, or put off by it. I was trying to help a former long-time volunteer who is an ASU student with a research project. To my understanding, it is one of the first studies into cosplay behavior as it impacts social and romantic relationships. I rushed the decision without fully thinking through its implications and I rushed sending the webmail, as is evident by forgetting to remove the templates.

It was never, and will never be, my intent to subject minors to explicit material or to offend anyone.

While I still want to offer help to our friends and supporters whenever possible, I realize this was the wrong way to do it. I hope that you can forgive my mistake and trust that my intentions were not as they appeared.

I want to assure you that your email address was not distributed or sold to any third-party and no personal information was released. I will be much more careful in the future.

I’d like to say this was me trying to do a good deed that sadly backfired.

Regretfully,

Matthew Solberg”

UPDATE

(3/12/2017) Conner

Thanks DeAngelo!

Cover photo is of cosplayer Shallon Enlow and photographer Mauro Gonzalez.

Darth Mexican has been a geek for 26 years. His interests include Anime, Cosplay, Comic Books, Kung Fu films, Video Games and Table Top Gaming. With strong character traits such as optimism and ambition, it's hardly a surprise that Darth Mexican decided to create a blog centered around Geek Culture that kept the community updated on all things they care for. However, he knew that he could not possibly tackle this beast by himself and recruited Spocktopus to his cause. Darth Mexican loves his team, this page, and those that follow it.

10 Comments

  1. sithrose@gmail.com'

    This is extremely not OK. There are teenagers on the PCC email list. Quite a few of them. This is a *completely* inappropriate survey to send to adults unsolicited, much less to teens. I did not sign up for PCC’s email list to get surveys about my sex life and intimacy in cosplay. My 13 year old most certainly didn’t either – he just wants to see who the guests are. *I* don’t care what people get up to in their free time at the con – as long as it’s suitably private, safe, sane, consensual, and consenting adults. However, I also do not need to have myself, my husband, and my son sent surveys with a drawing entry for tickets that ask invasive personal questions. Not to mention the fun of getting to explain why a survey is asking for information that my son’s been told is his business and not something that strangers on the internet need to know about – when there is no good explanation for it.

    Is this an example of what we can expect to see going forward with PCC’s new management strategy? Having “guests” send out unsolicited, inappropriate surveys that go against the many steps they’d previously made in “Cosplay is not Consent”? If so, I will be happy to take my con dollars elsewhere. As a cosplayer, con-goer, and parent I am extremely displeased with PCC for allowing this to happen.

    Reply
  2. mediacult@yahoo.com'

    I agree that it would be NOT ok for someone underage and hope that was a factor. Not everyone got the survey, so I think there may have been some selection criteria. If the poster above is saying that her 13-yr old got it, that’s really not cool, but if there’s no substantiation that it was sent out without regard to the age of the recipient, you need to lock that up. That is the way a nasty, and potentially damaging rumor starts.

    As an adult, I had a choice to answer or not answer the questions, or to eschew the survey all together. I made my choice based on that informed consent. No violation of my boundaries occurred.

    Reply
    • Hey Peter!

      Thank you for commenting! I agree that it wouldn’t be okay for minors to receive this survey however there is no way to tell if minors did not receive the survey unless they roll out the contact list and had accurate ages associated. I’m confident hat some attempt was made to not include minors but I am also confident minors still received the survey. With the temptation of winning a free pass to a fantastic convention, even more might have dove right in. The wording was a bit vague on what the survey would actually ask and I think that was one of the major issues.

      Still, the world will keep on spinning and we’ll all move on! Hopefully these issues will get ironed out for the future and folks can participate in studies with a complete understanding of what is going to happen.

      I hope you have a great weekend!

      -Darth Mexican

      Reply
  3. scurtis1@email.arizona.edu'

    This is a psychological study being conducted by a university. The university students obviously reached out to PCC to ask if they could disseminate the survey largely to con-attendees. If you read the informed consent, it tells you what questions to expect. They are using this data for psychological research on how Cosplay may benefit and strengthen relationships.

    As a graduate student in psychology myself (albeit, a different area), It really upsets me that studies conducted for the purposes of understanding behavior and hopefully reducing stigmas are met with such backlash from the community. The e-mail did not require you to participate: it was simply alerting you to the study and the opportunity to participate. Further, the study is completely confidential and anonymous – you enter your personal information through a completely separate link if you wish to enter for the prize. Any data received will not be associated with your personal information, and analyses will be conducted on the aggregate, not the individual.

    Finally, it is important to note that studies like these are reviewed by an ethics board at the university – The Institutional Review Board. The IRB reviews the studies (and advertisement of them) to make sure that no ethical broaches of confidentiality are occurring and that minimal risk is not being exceeded. We spend months waiting to see if we are allowed to conduct our research. (And yes, we are not allowed to collect data from those under the age of 18 without parental consent. If someone underage did happen to complete the survey, rest assured their data wouldn’t even be kept once the researchers looked through the reported ages. I believe the informed consent also stipulated only those over the age of 18 were eligible to participate).

    Reply
    • Hey Shelby!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on this article. As I mentioned in the article I do understand why these questions were asked and do believe that it may help with our understanding of cosplay and the effect it has on people, I just think the way it was presented wasn’t the best format. Many felt misled by the initial presentation, tempted by the chance of winning free passes, and then before they knew it, they were asked very personal questions. If they set up a prompt to verify their age or outright mentioned that it would involve answering questions about your sex life, it would have gone over better.

      Not to mention that many people participate in the Phoenix Comicon mailing list for information on the convention and are not interested in receiving emails about anything else.

      I chalk it up to good intentions but just a tad bit of miscommunication. No real harm done other than a few blushes.

      I hope you have a great weekend!

      -Darth Mexican

      Reply
  4. matt.solberg@phoenixcomicon.com'

    Hi All,

    Matthew Solberg, Convention Director here. I made a mistake. I apologize for the survey sent yesterday and if you were upset, offended, or put off by it. I was trying to help a former long-time volunteer who is an ASU student with a research project. To my understanding, it is one of the first studies into cosplay behavior as it impacts social and romantic relationships. I rushed the decision without fully thinking through its implications and I rushed sending the webmail, as is evident by forgetting to remove the templates.

    It was never, and will never be, my intent to subject minors to explicit material or to offend anyone.

    While I still want to offer help to our friends and supporters whenever possible, I realize this was the wrong way to do it. I hope that you can forgive my mistake and trust that my intentions were not as they appeared.

    I want to assure you that your email address was not distributed or sold to any third-party and no personal information was released. I will be much more careful in the future.

    I’d like to say this was me trying to do a good deed that sadly backfired.

    Regretfully,

    Matthew Solberg

    Reply
    • Hey Matthew!

      Thank you for commenting, we’ll be sure to update the article with your response. We appreciate you taking the time to weigh in on this.

      Have a great weekend!

      -Darth Mexican

      Reply
  5. kljansen3@hotmail.com'

    The amount of work on the researcher’s part, as well as the amount of oversight from the university is likely considerable. This is a difficult population to reach and I personally applaud Matt Solberg for supporting this individual and for supporting research in general. It’s a shame that people were offended, but I’m sure much of that could have avoided this by individuals reading the consent form before moving forward. Or by stopping the survey when they didn’t like it.

    Reply
    • mommalehr@gmail.com'

      I read the consent form; nothing stated that I would be asked questions about my sex life! Therein lies the only fault- no disclaimer of sexually explicit questions or Warning to underage PCC subscribers that this survey would be inappropriate.

      I would love to support the academic community in their pursuit of psychological studies and so forth. However there’s a line between invasive and explicit questions and research. This survey crossed it. I exited the survey without completing it.
      I applaud Matt, he was helping a friend and then quickly tried to clean up the PR disaster.
      The survey made me squirm and feel icky. No one should be subjected to that feeling; not even for free PCC tickets.

      Reply

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