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Young voters to get off the fence with online tool

August 7, 2014

Young voters to get off the fence with online tool

On the Fence is an online interactive tool that Massey’s Design and Democracy Project hope will encourage young New Zealanders to get off the fence and join in the decision-making by casting a vote in the general election.

The Design and Democracy Project, led by School of Design lecturer Karl Kane, is a strategic research unit established by the College of Creative Arts to increase awareness of election issues among young people.

Using the backdrop of sheep down on the farm – a play on the notion that people are sheep and follow their friends – the web-based On the Fence asks users to indicate how much they agree with the two statements that relate to policy issues of the day. A best match is then calculated to narrow down the options to present the parties most compatible to their views.

The matches are generated via a specially-built back end database or web tool that compiles data from an independent panel of specialists that includes political scientists, journalists and bloggers. The onthefence.co.nz site was originally launched in 2011, just six days before the election and proved popular attracting more than 30,000 individual visitors from all over the world.

A tutor at the School of Design and researcher for the Design and Democracy Project, Kieran Stowers, says the fun quirky narrative emphasises that political jargon is often difficult for young people to understand and aims to demystify that process. “It’s about making politics fun,” he says.

The web tool is built to guide the large number of inexperienced voters that feel peer pressured when voting, either going along with what their friends and family think or making no decision at all.

“The tool doesn’t tell a user how to vote or specifically who to vote for, but it points them in the right direction to find out for themselves what politics is all about. So it’s about putting trainer wheels on the future for young people,” Mr Stowers says.

“Voting shouldn’t be seen as a chore, voting is a way of expressing yourself as an individual and we wanted to help people find their voice.”
On the Fence goes live on Friday.



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