Researcher behind cosplay sex survey emailed by Phoenix Comicon speaks

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Last week, Nerdvana reported on a survey about cosplay and sexual habits that was distributed to subscribers of Phoenix Comicon’s email list. Convention director Matt Solberg quickly responded to inquiries about the appropriateness of the survey and issued an apology, stating that subscribers’ personal information was not shared with the survey’s researchers.

Our report initially was held for a few days while attempts were made to speak to those Arizona State University researchers as well for their side of the story. By Sunday, the report with Solberg’s response was published.

Phoenix Comicon distributes ASU sex and cosplay survey to email list, apologizes

Now, finally, one of the Arizona State University researchers involved in the survey has responded to Nerdvana’s request for comment. On Friday, ASU psychology student researcher Connor Leshner replied with a prepared statement that confirms Solberg’s assurance that Phoenix Comicon’s mailing list was kept confidential, and the convention sent the link to the survey on behalf of the researchers.

Leshner said the collection of data from Comicon attendees is complete although the survey may return with an updated consent form and more age-appropriate collection methods in the future — but it won’t be distributed to the convention’s population.

As for the goal of the study, Leshner described it as an attempt to “examine the dynamics of relationships as a result of cosplaying at Comicon.” That naturally brings up many questions concerning what cosplay is all about, and its already complicated perception beyond the convention circuit — but he said no results would be discussed by the research team until a publication deal can be reached with a scientific journal, and hopes conventions worldwide can serve as a venue for study about cosplay and relationships.

The researcher’s full statement appears below.

Matt Solberg cares deeply about the attendees at the convention. His dedication knows no bounds and his apology on behalf of this survey reflects that. However, there is some information we need to keep to ourselves at this time. With that said, we plan on updating our methods in the future so that we do not propose anything that could pose a risk to younger attendees, and chalk the current misstep to a miscommunication with Matt Solberg and myself. The study’s data collection concerning Comicon attendees is complete; it may return if more data needs to be collected, but Matt Solberg has forbidden further use of the Comicon population for reasons that can be inferred. However, with that said, the survey itself will not change, but the recruitment email and the consent form may be updated to reflect what we have learned in this round of data collection, should we need to collect more data.

The goal of the study is to examine the dynamics of relationships as a result of cosplaying at Comicon. No information about results will be available until a publication deal has been reached in a scientific journal. We were not given access to send the Comicon email and it was sent for us; Matt Solberg took every step to ensure the privacy of the attendees. As well, we were given Internal Review Board approval to send the survey out in its current state.

My concluding message is that I hope the stage can be set so that further research is encouraged by conventions around the world as there is a wealth of knowledge there that deserves study; just the method of gaining participants needs to be updated for future rounds of data collection.

We do not intend to make any more of an official statement, and instead invite people to email me at connor.leshner@asu.edu with further inquiries.

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