Internet voting: a monstrous alliance between democracy and technology?


Pieters, W. (2006) Internet voting: a monstrous alliance between democracy and technology? In: Fifth international conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication 2006, 28 Jun - 1 Jul 2006, Tartu, Estonia (pp. pp. 115-129).

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Abstract:In this paper, we aim at finding a cultural explanation of the
controversy around the introduction of electronic voting, especially Internet
voting. In her PhD thesis, Martijntje Smits (2002b) argues that controversies
surrounding the introduction of new technologies can often be explained in terms
of a clash between cultural categories. Whereas traditional cultures may for
example see twins as an unacceptable mixture between human and animal that
has to be destroyed, we may think of genetically manipulated food as an
unacceptable mixture of nature and culture. These “monsters” come into being
when cultural categories are inadequate to fit new phenomena. We argue that
Internet voting can be considered a “monster” that does not fit the two separate
categories of democracy and technology. Whereas some proponents of Internet
voting are fascinated by the clashing categories and embrace the monster, others
do everything to expel the monster by claiming the impossibility of implementing
a secure Internet voting system. A third approach is to adapt the monster to
existing categories. Examples of this strategy in electronic voting are the
inclusion of a paper trail in electronic voting machines, and limiting the
implementation of Internet voting to citizens staying abroad, who were already
allowed to vote via postal ballots. The fourth strategy that Smits mentions, and
which she characterises as the most promising one, is a pragmatic assimilation,
in which both the technology and the cultural categories are being adapted. We
argue that such an approach is advisable to avoid the irreconcilable positions of
monster embracing and monster expelling, and the limitations of monster
adaptation. This seems to be relatively easy in cultures where the cultural
separation of democracy and technology does not have a long tradition, such as
Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS)
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