Over the past year or so we have been working with Artem Baguinski at the V2 Centre in Rotterdam to improve our Who Wants to Be… ? voting system. This I consider to be a very important requirement for our show. In Who Wants to Be… ? as in all of our events, the speed of response to members of the audience’s ideas, half thoughts, proposals is crucial. One of the many problems with democracy, especially the voting part is that it doesn’t fit temporally with our thinking process, and this inhibits collective creativity. If the voting is instant and visual, then more ideas can be tested and revised in a very quick process. With this in mind we have been trying to create a robust system that can be used in various circumstances.
Our system right now uses a DSLR camera to capture votes from cards of three different colours. This allows you to vote between a maximum of three different options, which is not many, but if you have more options, it is difficult to determine what people really want. Even with three votes, it’s not that easy to know what the majority of people want as the winning vote could win with support from just 34% of the crowd. However 3 is more interesting and more technically challenging than a binary vote.
The system learns to interpret what is a vote in the particular light balance of the event you are at. This was a massive problem for our previous vote counting app, where we would have to spend hours calibrating colour sensitivities and deselecting red seat colours, for example. Then it would all go wrong when an audience member came in with a green coat.
The DSLR camera is linked to a studio flash which flashes when the vote is taken. This helps to maintain a cotinuous colour balance and tells the audience the moment the vote is taken. It also helps with the “legality” of the vote because you have a definite visual record of a definite moment that could also be analysed manually. In fact Artem’s system also allows the count to be done manually and be displayed on the projection screen if challenged.
We use this system with Who Wants to Be…? and our Unlecture format. Just like everything in Who Wants to Be…? its effectiveness and methodology is informed by the audience, so the way the system works develops every time. What we are hoping is that it becomes simple enough to use that it can be deployed anywhere for any of our events that use the Heckle visualisation system, as just another tool in The People Speak’s cabinet.
More detailed notes about our last trial of Artem’s vote counting software at the Article Biennial of Electronic and Unstable Art can be found here.