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April 29, 2009

Are You My Vote?

Isn’t it lovely that there’s all this controversy surrounding our ability to vote and put someone in office – you know, correctly? As much as I dislike filling in the second side of the bubble sheet for judges I have no clue about, hand cramps and all, I prefer this method of voting to touch screens. I would not trust it to take my vote accurately. And this isn’t based off the reading from NY Times Magazine and Hacking Democracy, but my own experience at the library trying to check out books with their touch screens. I had one of the old, old library cards that couldn’t be put in the slot for the computer to read (I was lazy in getting a new one). So I had to tap in the barcode of my card. I had a highly frustrating experience of standing there for how many minutes repeatedly touching the numbers and having nothing show up. I almost gave up when it finally worked. Mind you that this probably a couple years ago and the system has probably updated (and my card has too), but it goes to show the unreliability with these things. I’ve had the same issue with wedding registry screens at department stores of repeatedly touching a button to get to the next screen. Having problems like this is totally unacceptable when it comes to voting.

Hacking Democracy has been a very enlightening documentary, and I am glad to know people like Bev Harris are on the prowl to enlighten the public when the wonderful computers eat our votes. It is astonishing that Diebold and election centers are throwing out paper ballots and counting slips. I mean, the hell? Way to instill trust in your ability to conduct an election, people! Oh, and what is with keeping that computer code private? That absolutely needs to be public and vetted for security issues. I’d say if we can’t see the code, we don’t need the machines. Anyone who has ever been on a computer knows they can freeze up or crash on you. There should be no waffling around from governments on certification of the machines because if this mess interferes with our right to vote, then I say litigate the bleep outta ‘em!

Any given technology should be looked at from all standpoints in order to assess its impacts and decide if the technology is needed or how it can be improved. While it’s sad that we need organizations like Black Box Voting to clean up after an election, it’s also necessary if we want change. If we all believed that Diebold, ES&S and other companies said their machines count our votes more accurately just because it’s a computer and it’s faster and easier than hand counting, we’d never know that there were problems. Activists are needed to bring to light the downside of any given technology. It needs to be reported to the public, not hidden. Which is why it’s so disgusting to me that these companies want to gloss over problems that have arisen with the machines, but maybe this indicates giving over our vote to a private company isn’t the way to go if they won’t be forthcoming with whatever questions we might have.

I now feel rather ashamed that I haven't been paying more attention to the Senate recount and results because this is a very legitimate issue to discuss with any computerized machine that tallies our votes.

Identity(s)

I’d never really given much thought to where our identities come from before so I actually find the idea of it being socially constructed intriguing. I thought it was just something I grew into based on my own experiences, never thinking about how other people and society influenced it. But I can definitely see how this aspect should be included; my experiences didn’t happen in a vacuum as other people were involved so I’d naturally be reacting to their personalities and deciding what I did and didn’t like. The idea of having multiple identities, however, is odd to me because I would never see them as being mutually exclusive. I mean, I could understand it at a younger age, middle school or something, trying to decide where you fit in. I can’t believe I’m admitting I’ve seen this movie, but in A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff (shudder – I watched it when I was sick, ok?), she had a male friend that was essentially trying on identities with his clothes – cowboy, rapper, etc – but his persona was the same, kind and caring. He just spoke as the identity would and reacted as the identity would. It just creates a weird image to me of somebody trying on an identity much like clothing and discarding it when it doesn’t fit – all traits of it. Identity can change over time, but not where all facets are completely replaced instantaneously.

I do also agree with the idea of presenting a different aspect of your identity in different situations. Though – see, I’m saying aspect of identity, not a different identity altogether in different situations. I may get angry and yell at family members over something, but I would never (I hope) react the same way to someone in my place of work. I trust my family when I vent, but how would I know how a colleague would react? This is determined by social courtesies and how society expects you to act out in public so you alter yourself accordingly. Society definitely has a huge hand in constructing gender identities. Gah! It’s just so completely obvious how intertwined it is, what is a girl and what is a boy. I do remember reading recently in the Star Tribune about how the “tomboy” construct has been fading. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/42817822.html?elr=KArksUUUU
I was so a tomboy when I was in middle school; I even applied that term to myself rather than having someone label me with it. But I’m glad to hear that it’s been leaving. When I was in high school, being in sports was more the in-thing than being a cheerleader, and these girls (myself included) never ran around looking asexual.

Regarding Shayla’s book, Instant Identity, well, what to say about IM? I was in college when she was doing this study in 2002 and 2003. I did use IM, yes, but I used it to keep in touch with my family that I didn’t see everyday and friends that didn’t go to school with me. I don’t use it anymore though; I haven’t used it in years. But I’m not surprised by the dynamics that girls exhibited with IM in the book. I’d rather seem them be upfront with their issues than conniving and going behind people’s backs. That behavior is annoying every way, shape and form.