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User Journal

Journal Journal: Blogs vs. The Media vs. The Citizens.

First, I'll state the following, which should be obvious to everyone but - apparently - is not: there is no communication, no statement, without bias. From birth, we are conditioned to see and think by our unique individual experiences. I'll give you a basic lesson in semiotics, ripped straight from Saussure's Course in General Linguistics: every utterance is composed of a chain of signs. Each of these signs is composed of a signifier (the word) and a signified (that which the word is supposed to connote). Each signifier initially holds a different meaning for the hearer - if I say the word "tree" to you, you may think of a pine, while I think of an oak - thus, chains of signifiers tend to lessen (but never erase) the lack of clarity. This is a thumbnail description, but adequate for my purposes - if you want to understand more, visit the wikipedia entry (this one's accurate enough, I've checked it out).

Anyone engaging in a communicative act must thus be able to adequately arrange his chain of signifiers to convey a meaning close enough to the thoughts coursing through his mind. Thoughts that are intended for communication must be arranged and ordered - translated - through the conscious mind. This is why we have such cliches as, "Words cannot express," "I don't have the words, " "Words alone are inadequate to ..." and so on. All utterances thus translated will have some taint of bias, of individual perception, because, after all, it is the individual perception that serves as the origin of meaning.

The rest of this entry is found at my blog: Rhetoric, Culture, & The Digital.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Voter Confidence Quandary

It's time I inserted my own voice into the controversy concerning electronic voting. As an increasing number of states consider moving to electronic voting, industry-leading Diebold continues to try to quell the swelling number of studies and reports of security flaws in its equipment. Meanwhile, a number of websites, including engadget,,, and have posted pages detailing methods by which the machines may be hacked. The Center for Information Technology at Princeton University, of all places, has published a full research paper detailing the massive and serious security flaws in the hardware and software (which Diebold still maintains are extremely secure) of the voting machines that will be used in 357 counties - representing ten percent of all registered voters - across the US in the coming November election. My opinion? Electronic voting is a foolish outgrowth of what should be considered - following the dot-com crash - outdated and unfounded cyberlibertarian beliefs, more specifically:
  1. Technology will efficiently and accurately solve all of our troubles.
  2. The Free Market is better than governmental regulation in all cases.

To take these in reverse order: the free market cannot be relied upon to adequately secure individual human rights. The free market has a shitty record in this department because corporations - although they legally act as individuals - care only for the bottom line and pleasing shareholders. If you search Google, you'll find countless images and descriptions of child labor abuses during the Victorian era - before child labor laws: missing fingers (those tiny little bastards could remove objects from gears pretty easily), 16 hour workdays (until the Ten Hours act was passed, making it legal for 13-18 year olds to work only ten hour days), kids playing in the street in raw sewage, and more! Take a look at victorianweb's site about the subject. Hey, take a look at the good old USA, where the meat-packing industry was so corrupt that laws had to be passed against the canning and distribution of rotting meat and other disgusting practices. The free market may be great, but when deregulated, it's a bastard (and the leading cause of communism). Technology cannot solve all of our problems. Even "secure" technology is rife with flawed security issues. No computer software is too tough to be safe from an enterprising hacker: Google "security flaws" and you'll get over 14,400,000 hits. Anything that can be programmed can be hacked. Hardware designed by human engineers can be modified by geeks nationwide. Voting is the fundamental right of the citizen in our nation. The right to vote is too important to risk with any computerized system. Paper ballots, marked with ink (instead of punched cards) are the only means by which voters can be certain that a computer will not "miscalculate" or "accidentally delete" their votes - they can be sure that their vote is recorded accurately, at least until someone "accidentally throws away" their vote. The fact that we have to have this discussion makes me ill.

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