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 Estonia.
|Number of pages||15|
|Publication status||Published - 2006|