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

Stephen Coleman S.Coleman at leeds.ac.uk
Sat Jan 5 08:06:36 UTC 2008

Janet - Like my co-investigator, Vanalyne Green, I appreciate your comments. But I want to resist the temptation to somehow dichotomise voting and democratic action. The Feel Tank manifesto refers to voting as a 'minimal gesture of representation' and I don't want to abandon opportunities simply because they are slight. Having the opportunity to perform (or choose not to perform) this minimal gesture is hugely more democratic than being denied it. It is not, as I see it, a 'tedious irrelevance' to have access to a mechanism which, when it works, can throw out bad governments, affirm popular values and aggregate priorities. In this sense, I might be described as a reformer rather than an abolitionist - because a) voting is a social reality which needs to be understood rather than ignored and b) minimal gestures of representation can sometimes be made less minimal through reflexivity.  
The problem with reformers is their generally uncritical relationship to that which they want to change. Our research project aims to avoid that danger. We're not setting out to urge more people to vote or to promote more efficient voting technologies or to suggest that better voting equals more effective democracy. We see voting as an act that has been under-studied from an affective and aesthetic perspective. Too much has been written about the mechanics and arithmetic of voting choices and not enough about the experiential dimension. One of our research aims to ask people - many and diverse people - about their memories of voting (not just in political elections, but many other contexts as well) and their desires for more satisfying gestures of representation - by others and by themselves. It's a concept-building exercise. It's about giving flesh and blood to a democratic skeleton. 
Two other aspects of our project that might interest participants in this list are i) that Vanalyne and I come from very different academic traditions (fine art and political science/democratic theory respectively) and therefore need to make respectful sense of each other's perspectives as well as those of the voting and non-voting public; and ii) that we do not see our work as being enclosed by an academic institution, but know that we can only make the sense we need to make if others join with us. We already have some formal project partnerships - with community artists, architects and performers - and want to work in networks like this one to create informal partnerships with people who think that what we're doing matters. 
Stephen Coleman
Professor of Political Communication
Institute of Communications Studies
University of Leeds
s.coleman at leeds.ac.uk


From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net on behalf of Janet Hawtin
Sent: Fri 04-Jan-08 9:39 PM
To: Vanalyne Green
Cc: idc at mailman.thing.net
Subject: Re: [iDC] voting as an act of citizenship, perhaps? cont.

On Jan 5, 2008 2:53 AM, Vanalyne Green <V.Green at leeds.ac.uk> wrote:
> Thanks, Janet,
> I especially appreciate the image of the toddler.  Points taken.  It may help to give some context to where I'm coming from.  I was very influenced by the work of Feel Tank Chicago, of which I was a member when I lived in the States (http://www.feeltankchicago.net/).  In particular, I'm moved by what I perceive as the roundabout ways people have of living with the fact that their governments don't listen to them, be it through not voting, through depression, cynicism, religion -- in my opinion one of the few socially sanctioned opportunities for people to be irrational and proud of it.  So to think about spoiled ballots, shopping as voting, etc., is a  route to a using a language, I hope, a language that might give people more opportunities to bring to consciousness what life would look like if they thought what they wanted could make a difference.  I don't have illusions about making a huge difference, but I live in this world and must respond to its crises, and the proje!
 ct is one of those ways.
> What you wrote about the earth doesn't scale is very lovely.  I agree.


Here is the senator online site

A google on the founder's name

Which is why I think that working around the vote end of the system is
unlikely to offer social
and ecological changes.

The kind of people who currently gravitate towards providing services to manage
digital voting eg Diebold, seem to be loosely joined to the ethics and
core function of voting
and more closely connected to individual candidates or other interests.

In a context where the voting is the only moment where the voters are relevant
it is not surprising that the interests which generally shape
governance for the rest of the year
tend to have a shaping factor on the choices form and effect of voting.

Lessig is aiming to tackle the core corruption of the political
process in the USA.

Obama is running with the same thoughts.
Reengaging democracy with its function.
The issues section is quite comprehensive.

Dont know if he will be able to effect systemic change but the process
he is using to have a go is all based on the voters control/funding of
his campaign rather than the lobbyist groups which normally shape the
profile of the candidate.

Who are the people and what are the systems which need to be tackled
in other nations?
In local areas. What does democracy look like if voters do want to see
what is at the other end of the transactions they are making. What if
there is no TMI or SEP button. How do we manage information as a
volume of information which we are responsible for weilding.

It depends what your goals are but for me the core policies and
thinking behind governance as
opposed to franchise seems to be a body of knowledge which is at risk
through misuse or through
people purchasing policy and law from proponents or from international
agreements at WIPO which do not
have at heart the same kind of public interest and which are
explicitly matters of trade as law and social policy. Intellectual
property, patents and copyright are having a great deal of impact on
how people can participate because these increasingly intrusive laws
are shaped by groups who see the system as money would tell it.

Finding ways to reengage social prirorities is one challenge.
Finding ways to effectively represent and offer responsible custody
for ecology and biodiversty or even for traditional cultures
is a systemic choice about the value of that diversity over the right
of way of a monoculture we are more familiar with.
Wade Davis' TED talk looks at the view from another perspective.

The Chicago people might find something in Wade Davis' call for
inclusion of social diversity:

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