[iDC] voting as an act of citizenship, perhaps?

Vanalyne Green V.Green at leeds.ac.uk
Thu Jan 3 19:28:03 UTC 2008

Trebor suggested that I screw up the courage to post and so here goes:

Working as an artist, writer and someone passionate about education and educational programs, I've begun a collaboration about the relationship between politics and pleasure as it might be understood through voting.  My collaborators are Dr. Stephen Coleman and Valentina Cardo.  I'll post a skeletal web link at the bottom of this page, with some related citations.  

Anyway:  it all started when Stephen was telling me that people who voted Tory had different visual memories of what they saw on the way to their polling station, as compared with people who voted Labour.   And so we began talking about our ludicrous moments of hope and utopia while in the voting station and how, in spite of our cynicism, we so enjoyed those moments of mingling with strangers united by our common desire for a better world in an instant when we probably all knew that the vote is nigh on to meaning nothing.  (Or does it.  The experience of having the elections rigged in the States, the Supreme Court, Gore, Ohio, etc., makes for a different set of traumas, I think... .). Stephen is doing a lot of work about reality television shows that incorporate voting.  Why is it, he asks, people will vote for Big Brother, the controversial reality TV show in Britain, but they won't vote in the general election?  Voting is ever more part of a social 

Anyway we spun out a project that wants to validate people for not voting, when they don't vote, rather than shame them.   But we also want, perhaps naively, to encourage people to consider engaging in the political process -- I mean the one articulated by voting in governmental elections, as well as others.  We also want to ask people if votes should be private.  Should they?  Why is the voting booth in many countries configured as if it were a bathroom stall, for example?  

Recently, in an article that didn't get much traction outside of the Italian press, Tony Blair said that there is no longer a left or a right, only a variety of responses to globalization.   Where does that put voting in the nation-state version of voting?  Will the day come when we can vote for officials in countries to which we don't have citizenship?  

Here are the formal questions we've given ourselves via focus groups, art works, performances, architecture:

1. How do citizens experience the process of voting in contemporary society?
2. What kind of issues – from local to global – would citizens (of voting age or not) like to vote on if they were given a chance to do so?
3. Are there ways of mediating the voting experience that could emphasise its quality as a live event? 
4. Can new ways be invented to enable citizens to reflect and deliberate upon the intensity of their collective preferences? 
5. How might people design their own voting methods which emphasise reflexive and imaginative dimensions of choice-making?
6. How can the consequences of voting be made more visible? 

I suppose what I'm posing is an open call to you:  are these the right questions to be asking?  

If any of you wish, I'm happy to send a fuller description of the project.



some citations and the beginnings of a web site:

Barbalet, J. (2002) ‘Secret Voting and Political Emotions’, Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 7(2): summer

Barnett, A. (2001) ‘Abolish The Secret Ballot’, OpenDemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy/article_355.jsp

Bjiker, Weibe and Law, (1992) Shaping Technology / Building Society, Boston: MIT Press

Coleman, S. (2006) ‘How The Other Half Votes: Big Brother Viewers and the 2005 British General Election Campaign’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, forthcoming, December 

Design Council (2005), Touching The State, London, Design Council

Hall, S. (1988), The Hard Road to Renewal. Verso

Latour, B. and Weibe,  P. (eds)  (2005) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy.
Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Rogoff, I. (2000) Terra Infirma: Geography's Visual Culture. London: Routledge

web link, still a beta's beta: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/leeds/newpages/votewww/index.html


Professor Vanalyne Green
Chair of Fine Art
The School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies
The University of Leeds
Old Mining Building
Leeds LS2 9JT
West Yorkshire

Office:  +44 (0) 113 343 7633
Email:  v.green at leeds.ac.uk

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