Highlights From The Critical Making Lab Collection: Biased Voting Machine

In Canada, we tend to take voting for granted. We expect it to be open to us and we expect it to be a simple and fair process. In 2009, Dr. Matt Ratto challenged his Critical Making class to imagine a world where voting was openly biased. This object is one of the results:


It’s a little broken at the moment but in its original form, the voting machine would have two buttons, one red and one green. To vote, the user would have to press one of these buttons. It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? And it is – unless the user has red-green colour blindness.

A colour-blind voter using this machine is forced to either guess which button signifies which option or seek help from someone else. In no case can they reliably cast their vote on their own. The object raises questions of biases and privilege. For a person with a full range of colour vision, it’s such a non-issue it’s doubtful that they’d even notice there was a bias. But the person being excluded will notice.

And if it’s this easy to miss the bias against one group, it leads to the question: who else do we not notice we’re excluding?

To learn more about how this object was made, check out this post from 2009.

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About Rowena McGowan

Rowena is a second year Museum Studies student at the iSchool and curator at Semaphore lab. Having read 'I, Robot' at a formative age, she is fascinated by technology's potential to make the world a better place.

View all posts by Rowena McGowan →

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