I am really sorry to see the return of the Worm this election. And even more sorry to see the great institution of Scoop involved in its return. It’s bad enough we have way more polling than we need, interfering with democratic process. Now we have even more of the same with the way the Worm is to be implemented.
There are various ways that both polling, and the Worm, no matter how scientifically sophisticated, interfere with, and skew democracy. In general, it results in the accentuating of politics as Game: like a games show in which people try to pick winners, and crowds get caught up with the momentum of the celebration of politics as Game show.
It interferes with democratic and in-depth debate of policies and values, and reduces the focus to the uncritical surge of mob mentality. And, in the use of smart phones for voting, it gives more power to the top sectors of the digital divide. Furthermore, it risks producing self-fulfilling prophecies that influence, rather than merely predict voting intentions.
Scoop Independent News has formed a partnership with leading polling company, Roy Morgan Research, to bring the original Worm back for the NZ 2014 Election.
Roy Morgan’s online, mobile and live Reactor tools record the unvarnished gut reactions of voters, displaying how positively the public feel about specific things NZ politicians are saying on the television.
The Worm has previously has frequently caused a stir in the US, Australian and NZ elections. TheReactor (the original Worm) first appeared in NZ on TVNZ for the Election Debate in 2002 Then on TV3 in 2005, 2008 and during the live TV3 political debate in the NZ 2011 Election.
“The Reactor is ground-breaking as it enables crowd-sourced reactions to provide a precise picture of how specific developments, political promises and news events affect the public mood,” says Scoop Publisher Alastair Thompson. “The art of political punditry is to interpret these things based on hunches and experience, The Reactor provides us pundits with data and evidence to back up our views.
Media and polling companies are getting too caught up with their own roles, capabilities and power, rather than focusing on the best ways to serve democracy. Journalists and editors will be involved in processes of selection and presentation of key moments during each week:
A video clip of the previous weeks Political Highs & Lows will be compiled by Scoop and we will invite Scoop Media Cartel readers to participate by giving us five minutes of their time to tell us how strongly they agree or disagree with what the politicians are saying.
Initially the NZ Election Reactor will invite New Zealanders everywhere to react Online with theReactor. In the coming weeks we will also deploy the Mobile Reactor App to reach as wide as possible an audience.
This is providing intense media scrutiny of people’s immediate feelings, converting them to graphics and stats, in visual form, rather than inviting more measured reflection and in depth scrutiny and debate: saturated media focus on Scoop and Roy Morgan’s interventions.
This bit of the Scoop/Roy Morgan press release is highly significant:
“The Reactor has been proven over more than 30 years to be remarkably accurate predictor of how electors feel about key issues and, ultimately, how they vote.
They are making the basic mistake in assuming that correlation equals cause -as-they-have -judged-it. It is just as likely that there is this correlation because the use of the Worm influences how and if people vote.
Politics as Game, and turning the whole election campaign into a media and poll company orchestrated Game Show, is likely to turn off many people from voting – especially if they start to see the outcome of the elections as inevitably pointing in one direction.
Focusing on Politics as Game, over more considered reflections and analysis of policies, political track record and values, results in many voters, especially those with least social, economic and political power, becoming cynical about politics: cynical about the extent to which voting can result in genuine democratic representation.
It is part of the whole neoliberal, postmodern sham that results in easily manipulated populations: where instant responses dominate over deeper reflection; where visual representations (videos, graphics, etc) dominate over extended debate in print and spoken language; where individual personalities dominate collaborative team efforts, policies and values; and where representing emotions dominate over reasoned analysis.
The value of the Worm can be summarised in 2 words: Peter Dunne.
Vote left this election – consider the options, debate the issues, don’t let the Worm dominate.
[Update 15 July 2014] Rosie has reported on her use of the Worm technology. Extract from her comment:
Predictably I whacked the slider down to zero for every Key sound bite and up to 100 for every Cunliffe one. I imagine Nat voters will do the opposite. But it was a cheap thrill and I felt silly afterwards. I had just participated in a meaningless exercise designed to exploit every bias possible.
What is disturbing is that rather than thinking through and evaluating what the person in the video clip has said, the worm wants your gut reaction. This is a subjective approach and rather unhinged if this is how one makes decisions about voting.
I’m not denying that gut reaction has it’s place, but such emotive responses should be based on prior knowledge – we see that here when people comment on the expected movements and actions of a politician after an “event”. That intuition comes from knowledge about that politicians patterns and can also be gut feeling mixed with educated guesses