criticalmaking.com

Masters of the Catch-22

February 11, 2009inf2241_classfi22410

As the gray light of a harsh winter’s day filtered over the edge of our voting booth, we stood back and pondered the implications of our creation…

As explained in the previous post by Bruno’s Bellybutton, the rationale behind our core design decisions have been based on strategically instilling bias in the physical design of our voting technology. That is, we plan for our bias to be expressed through the difficult to maneuver voting selection switch (please refer to previous post for more details on this aspect of our design process). As development continued in this direction, we began preparing the aesthetic appearance of our technology. In doing so, a few realizations dawned in our minds…

One by one, we began commenting to each other and all our comments ran along the same vein of thought: not only did we embed the bias of Bruno’s Bellybutton into the requirements for completing the actual act of voting, but our bias had also been further ingrained into the aesthetic design of the voting booth itself.

Observe the brutal minimalism, the straight edges, the barren cold dark void into which voters must input their hopes for some future outcome which will affect their life and the lives of those around them…

Assuming a democratic environment, it is expected that the voice of each individual person counts for something. In order to be heard, people must go out and vote. They are essentially forced to engage with whichever voting system is in place at the time of an electoral decision. Such is democracy… suddenly, we exclaimed “AHA! We’ve got them! Suckers.” As designers of the voting machine technology to which they must all turn, and upon which the outcome rests, we’ve got the power to pull voters into our riptide of bias.

Within our hands rests the possibility to create an illusion of democracy: a hidden Catch-22 from which no voter can escape. Vote – lest your voice not be heard, keep democracy alive! Yet, the outcome is inevitably for Bruno’s Bellybutton.

We considered how we could further embed this Catch-22 into the aesthetics of our voting machine. There was a great deal of discussion regarding the ways in which we could program our bias into the voting screen display. We considered using images rather than text. Now, not only would we be making voting difficult for those with physical disabilities, such as the elderly, but also for other disabilities as well. As text could be read by a screen reader, this would create another layered inclusive design issue against the blind community. We considered the implications of an image-only display. It would fit with our aesthetic expression, but how could the selection of images effect the act of voting. Perhaps, a frightening or surprising image of the first option might startle the voter and thus, they may not act as quickly on the switch. On the other hand, perhaps a kind smiling image of the second option might cause them to vote for that party at the last minute instead. We considered blending the images together, fading them in and out on top of each other. On the technical level, we would count all votes during the fading time for Bruno’s Bellybutton. The possibilities for embedding our bias in the programming on the more technical level and layering it under a veil of functionality on the physical level was endless! If we did include text, we considered the implications of the type of linguistic expression we selected. For example, perhaps it would be possible to sway the vote towards our bias by using only ebonics…

We decided to have the image in favor of Bruno’s Bellybutton displayed slightly longer than the other party, giving voters more time to input this option and much less time to input their option for the other party.

Imagine: As voters approach the looming voting booth, with its alarmingly stark appearance, it reeks of inescapable pending doom. The streaks of light spilling over its sharp edges illuminates the voting switch as they reach for it, fumbling and struggling to get a grip. Their eyes squint trying to focus on the bright glowing screen floating against the darkness. An image flashes before them… what? who is that? Oh yes, I think that is who I want to vote for. They move to flick the switch, a task in itself to hold it down for long enough to register their vote.  The image starts fading within seconds. What a… wait!  That looks kind of like Bruno now. Yes, I think that must be Bruno… what have I done! I do not know if I want to vote for him, but did I just do that??? All the while Bruno’s Bellybutton looks on thinking, “Don’t worry dear voter, you have another 20 seconds to think about that”… while Bruno’s picture continues to float on the screen.

– BBB

Technical Notes and Images:

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