The border:none conference was in Germany last week followed by an IndieWebCamp event, so several indieweb people were there. In the chat, the amount of current Covid cases was brought up and a mention of how few were masked in a crowd of about 200.

My heart sank — a feeling I’m unfortunately getting more and more used to. I commented “in-person conferences may just be a thing of the past for me at this rate 🫠.” I followed that with an explanation that it’s the psychological and emotional weight of being in spaces like that. I have to psych myself up. It feels really isolating; the “alone in a crowded room” feeling.

Tantek helpfully tried to put a positive frame on it as “an interesting exercise in independence and not bowing to implied / perceived social pressure” and the idea that it can help train us to be independent thinkers. I’ve been thinking on that for a bit now. I think there is some truth to that, but I also feel pretty well-trained in that regard after almost 4 years of this.

For me, it’s important to remember that the context of this training is the nearly unmitigated spread of a virus with long-term health impacts. That’s a big part of the psychological weight. I can’t emphasize enough how important community care has become to me. It’s not just my health that I’m concerned about when I’m in a crowd. Looking around and seeing that the majority are not taking basic precautions (for whatever reason) really weighs on me. We know these precautions make everyone safer, but so many people have bought into the hyper-individualism of the moment.

I love the work that Clean Air Club is doing in Chicago, crowdfunding and trying to make concerts safer by providing free air purifiers. They posted a reel recently that I think explains the importance of being proactive in prioritizing Covid safety and accessibility. Here is a transcript of the audio (emphasis mine):

Going to shows the past few years, it seems like nobody is masking anymore. But the reality is that Covid cautious people are being pushed out of these spaces. There’s a selection bias at crowded events. If you do attend and choose to mask, you feel like the only one. But you’re not.

This is a classic paradox of inaccessibility. Because a space is inaccessible to Covid cautious people, they aren’t able to join. But because they aren’t able to join, it appears that there is no demand for Covid cautious spaces. It’s feedback loop that entrenches ableism in our music scene. Artists, event hosts, and venues most of all have an obligation to interrupt this loop.

Prioritize Covid safety.

Clean Air Club,

This has me mulling over what policies I will promote if/when I’m in a position to organize in-person events again, as well as what I will request/encourage other event organizers to implement. I hope to write more on that soon.


Marty McGuire
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