Saturday, September 29, 2012


I was first required to wear an identification badge for my job sometime in the 1990s, when I was working for Disney. Whether it was clipped on or hung from a lanyard, the ID badge has been there to get me past specific doors, into sensitive areas, or through security gates. I've become so accustomed to the darned things that I nearly feel nekkid without one--especially in a work situation.

The use of badges is curious to me the more that I think about it. They are little more than plastic cards with your picture, your authorizing organization, and some other data or functionality, depending on the badge (including door and computer access). Yet the badge has a very distinct set of social meanings, depending on your line of work. It is displayed as a public symbol of trust, acceptance, authority, officialdom.

Badges have some other connotations as well. They sometimes denote professional or social rank. They tell others where you can and cannot go. Wear one outside a facility that requires one, and you're pegged as belonging to a specific organization or even social class. You can be pegged as a "government man," for example, or "a suit." They can make the individual feel like they're wearing a dog tag. The darn things get in the way at times.

Why am I reflected on this now? Because I'm about to move into an environment where I won't need to wear a badge every day. It's liberating, and a little strange. That's not to say I won't have access cards--my new employer has two at the moment--and I'll probably end up visiting facilities that require the publicly displayed badge in the near future. But it does make me wonder a little bit about the culture/mindset of large organizations vs. small. Not all jobs need a badge, or even a name tag. Sometimes just your face will do. I wonder what it would take to get back to a truly "badgeless" society.

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