4 Color Process 10x
4 Color Process 40x
“Full color” print is typically achieved by mixing different dot densities of four main colors, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, in what is known as the four color process. While this is standard full color print in your magazine or postcard, different effects can be achieved by mixing more particular colors in a similar process. Check out the color bars on the flap of your cereal box or other packaging to see the different inks that went into creating the image as you eye perceives it.
These dot patterns are the detail of a image of a grassy field from a magazine.
Posted: November 30th, 2010
, Small Stuff
Comments: 1 Comment
Black & White Toner Print 4x
Black & White Toner Print 10x
Black & White Toner Print (Half-tone) 10x
This week, Small Stuff looks at print technology! Tune in all week to see the difference between print tech on the level of the infinitesimal!
Posted: November 29th, 2010
, Small Stuff
Comments: 2 Comments
If Warren Ellis keeps making his remodel threads involve movie posters, I’m afraid you’ll probably end up seeing a lot more of these.
This one could probably double for a Spider-Mad-Men mashup. If for some reason you wanted such a thing. I would have added angular ties, if that was the direction I was going for. But this one remains strictly Lynch. You can tell because of the weird shoes the one woman silhouette is wearing.
You can wear the print-ready PDF, which is available here.
Posted: November 22nd, 2010
, Motivational Posters
Comments: No Comments
So for the moment, let’s just bracket the whole security state, individual body autonomism, and terrorism fear-politics thing. Whatever you agree with is totally right, and full body scanners are _______.
Now. Your opinion being correct, the government being wrong, and the differences between these ideas and reality being completely resolved, let’s think about it in a different way.
What is so wrong with being naked?
Full body scanner opposition has really brought out the prudes. Sure, you claim political reasons, (which I can’t hear right now ’cause I done bracketed ‘em) but I think you are just afraid of what the naked body looks like.
This is 2010. This is the year when it is completely reasonable for women to walk around wearing nothing but a thin layer of spandex clinging to the outside of their junk. This is the year when rock stars are photographed in the streets playing the drinking game where if you show someone your nuts they have to drink an alcohol energy drink. (That is a thing, right? Sounds like it is.) This is the year where pornography finally, FINALLY made it onto the Internet.
I know it’s the rule that we have to hate whatever it is the government is trying to make us do, especially in airports. But why do we have to be against it if it is nakedness? I also know it is a rule that the only people we want to see naked are supposed to be very attractive, and they don’t go to airports ever. But this is a recession, and we all have to make concessions.
So what is the real issue? If we’re not against nakedness, and we’re not against settling for a less than perfect nakedness, then what is it about full body scanners we really don’t like? It’s that nobody gets to see the pictures except for TSA. We don’t get to upload them to Facebook for our boss to find, accidentally expose them from underneath our skirt as we drunkenly trip exiting a subway car, or sit with it in our hand while we surf Chatroulette. The problem is not being naked. It is just such a limited, un-fun, anti-exhibitionist naked.
So here is my proposal. Share your nakedness. Rather than submit to the hand-off, monochrome, and frankly un-party-like atmosphere, opt-out of the body scanner, and OPT-IN to the pat down. Share your body with another human being. Talk to him or her. Look your fellow human in the eye. Extend your arms, and let the warm flesh underneath those latex gloves run over your frame. Encourage them to seek to ensure nothing dangerous lies in your corporeal crevices, not with any potentially harassing comments, but with a loving presence of a willing, giving fellow inhabitant of a physical form.
We all have bodies, and that has always been the danger. We have material beings that are fragile, vulnerable to attack, and susceptible to threats, permeated by fear. And this is why we must celebrate our bodies, strutting them through the streets, trussing ourselves up in meager strings of cloth that beg to let the skin underneath be released in full animal beauty. We are judgmental of our and other’s bodies, and just as defensive against such criticism. The terrain of our slowing rotting homes has always been the battlefield, both inside and out. And rather than force ourselves to see the truth of this messy, insurgent conflict, we disavow our bodies. We put on a coat, we tie a tie, and we declare mission accomplished. Even though this war can never be won.
What if rather than assign the battle of our bodies to a bureaucratic entity, we decided to fight this war ourselves. In a world of mutual human body security, you go to the airport, and approach a stranger. You introduce yourselves, and sit down together to open your luggage. You look through each others’ clothing and electronics, admiring what you like, and condemning anything that might be dangerous to either of you. Embarrassing items like underwear, hygiene effects, or pleasure items illicit a blush, and a knowing wink. Then you begin to undress each other. You look under each others arms, and between each others legs. In the mouth, and through the hair. Did you know you have the beginnings of a cavity there? And I think it might time to redo that hair dye. You have some roots showing. Not so bad yet, but in the next week or two. This is a check-up as much as a check-through. There is no sexual contact, because this is a public place, for goodness sake! There is exploration, examination, questioning, and eventually, approval. No one is embarrassed, humiliated or violated. Instead, we look out for each other, by looking underneath our coverings, and ultimately, inside of ourselves.
Rather than prepare for a trip by checking the codes and avoiding the fearful scanner machines, maybe we prepare for our inspection by flossing our teeth. We trim that extra bit of body hair we don’t care for, because after all, we want to look our best for inspection. We wash our ears and feet carefully, because we will soon be showing them off. The scrutiny of an other’s gaze is a heavy burden. Not because of what might happen to us, but because after all, we are inspecting ourselves.
If we live in a world in which threats hide beneath our clothing, then by all means, let us lay the danger bare. Opt-in to the opt-out, and feel what having a threatened body really feels like.
Posted: November 19th, 2010
Tags: death drive
Comments: 1 Comment
Dandelion Pollen 4x
Dandelion Pollen 10x
Dandelion Pollen 10x+
Posted: November 18th, 2010
, Small Stuff
Comments: No Comments
Last week, the Internet was destroyed in an apocalyptic inferno, only to be reborn again on Monday.
I have this theory: every week the world of the Internet finds it’s ultimate expression in a blossoming eschaton, and then after an odd purgatory of a weekend, begins again in genesis; or less abstractly, just as it ended, and as if nothing had happened. Only to destroy itself again at the end of the coming week. A constant cycle of continuous birth and death that becomes an extensive, planar, existence of fire.
After all, eschatology is always (at least until the world really DOES end) an existential thing. The end of the world, just like the beginning, is a diagrammatic cosmology of the world as we know it. In birth and death, we discover the meaning of everyday life, and vice versa. Every day is another boring slog away from birth and toward death, and in this way it is both being born more and dying more, all the time. Until it isn’t. In the manner in which we exist, so we see the world, until such time as we stop existing.
Or maybe not. But regardless, the blogging world poured out its own seven terrible vials of the wrath of Blog last week. A mini-apocalypse, but yet the end of a certain world, all the same. Because there really are seven vials here and too many to analyze in detail even for me, I will outline them for you in abstract, if not poetic John of Patmos form.
In the act of retiring from blogging, MARC AMBINDER draws a distinction between blogging as a reporting-persona, and working for a publication as a nameless-reporter. He favors the latter.
MATT THOMPSON argues, re: Ambinder’s piece that it is not blogging per se that creates the level of persona-intensity necessary, but the individual approach to blogging.
TIM CARMODY calls out the author-function as a “gore point”, (this is the non-technical term for the concrete barriers that rise out of nothing to divide exit lanes from travel lanes as traffic exits from freeways: a place of many fatal accidents) a sign of authorly/non-authorly intention, this indicator falling to one side or the other to determine whether or not any particular writing tends towards the persona-model or the publication-model.
ROBIN SLOAN sews it up by saying that a blog, as a publication, lends itself towards a focus on a persona-based author-function.
Elsewhere but not entirely unrelatedly: CINDY ROYAL attributes a certain responsibility to a certain magazine for their cover material adhering to her standards of sexual equality.
GEOFF MANAUGH responds to criticism from the architectural establishment that his blog is in someway responsible for the decline in serious architectural criticism.
JOEL JOHNSON lashes out at jerk commenters attempting to tell him how to write on his gadget blog.
Hail, fire, and blood in the fountain! You’d think the hallowed institution of blogging media wasn’t going to surpass the epoch set by print media, or something. This rickety tower of babel keeps plummeting down, no matter how many times I quickly lash it together! One semiotician just can’t keep it standing up by himself!
And yet, blogging is a defined world, even if its cosmology is loose at the seams. Let’s look at what we learn about this world-view from this particular seven-headed apocalypse.
Let’s start with the author-function. I like the author-function. For a long time, I made it my mission to write entirely without the author-function. Inspired by the likes of Foucault and Derrida, whom each in their own ways identified and confronted the fragmentary and shifting nature of the author-function, I explored the philosophical and literary possibilities of writing without a position of authority. But in the end, I discovered it was impossible. And not just from a lack of success in actually doing it. I believe it is theoretically impossible, from a semiotic perspective. To create a link of signs together that transmits meaning, a narrative must be constructed. A narrative necessarily links the act of expression and reception of that expression–a link between two entities. The primal network connection, if you will. Two entities necessitate a single authorial combination, a method of getting from A to B, even if that conjunction is not a person. It could be a noun and verb, a single publication, a set cultural beliefs, a history, a unified physical plane, a logic, a common language, or an actual author and reader. If there are two points, there must be a distance between them. The act of signification requires a “narrator”–an ego assumed by the very construction of meaning itself. Freud, in describing the forces that embody the very roots of memory in the unconscious, identifies a Word-representation and an Sense-representation. These exist as separate areas of “charge” in the mind, but the minute they begin to inform each other–the Word to express what the Sense received and vice versa–there is a positive existential entity embodied in this feedback loop. The word and the sense are the first network connection. Freud calls it the ego, this “first” symbolic entity, that not only exists but seeks to express the “being” of that existence in reflexive self-definition. Whether there is or is not a Freudian ego isn’t the point. There must be a thing that is capable of both describing its existence and existing as described. A thing must have “thingness”, if you like. And accordingly, a thing with thingness must be constantly exhibiting that thingness, or else cease to be that thing.
I wrote a master’s thesis about this, but with much more bigger words.
But the point is, if you are going to write even without using a single damn pronoun and with infinitive verbs only, you are still going to have an author-function. I like the example of a loaded pistol. A pistol can always be a killing weapon, even if it is put away and not pointed at anything. And even if it is accidentally fired, a bullet will always go exactly where it is aimed, even if the aiming is not intended. Like they say in Law and Order, “intention follows the bullet”. If you fire a weapon in the air and the bullet somehow kills someone, it is still your fault. It is impossible for a bullet to not shoot, just as it is impossible for a word not to authoritatively mean. There is a nice Schrodingerian fatalism in this. The bullet is always already fired/not-fired simply by nature of being a bullet. Otherwise, it would just be metal. In the long term, every one is dead. Even to say, “no no no, let’s just look at the short term” admits the same, because in order to have a short term, you must presuppose a long term, and ignore it. If you want words to mean something, they will always say something about something. Words shouted abstractly still mean something, the shouter just chooses to use that meaning abstractly. Nonsense words don’t have a dictionary meaning, but they still mean within a certain category of non-sense. If it is a word, it could be used to mean. Ignoring meaning is a positive act, not an absent negation.
I think that Marc Ambinder desperately wants to ignore a certain meaning of things that is becoming more common as times change, and as we get used to writing and reading blogs. And in this way he seeks to negate (at for himself) certain functions of blogging through a refusal. He seems to be nostalgic, and perhaps rightly so, for a time when the meaning of reporting was channeled through an institution that held the author-function rather than the individual writer. He writes about a pure method of merely seeking to inform the reader. And who knows–perhaps this purity still exists somewhere. But it is becoming obscured in this world. For a variety of different reasons, people are informed from a number of sources, and in different ways, and at different speeds. There may indeed by a bedrock anchor of informing institutions, but above that, lies the obscuring clouds we all see. Negotiating these layers of clouds is a different problem, depending on exactly what sort of role you want to play. But it seems like the pure role of an informing institution is over. To attempt to negate that there are clouds obscuring your vision is silly. To dislike blogs and seek something else does not take away the reasons that blogs have become “a thing”.
If anything proves that the field of meaning is changing significantly from that nostalgic “cloud-free” blue sky of intentional informing, it is the number of bloggers out there that do not necessarily seek to inform, and are bloggers, nonetheless. And yet we can identify them as part of the same blogging world–that continent of the damned, always on some corner sliding into the sea. Bloggers can be journalists, they can be curmudgeonly semioticians, or they can be performing whatever pseudo-academic off-brand of awesome Geoff Manaugh perpetrates on BLDGBLOG. Or they can… LiveJournal. And yet, we realize they are all bloggers.
There are some technical elements that we use to identify the form, of course. The single column of holy fire, lighting up our RSS readers on a regularly basis. The small trace elements of repetitive form that Blogspot, Tumblr, and WordPress characteristically provide, like the subtle clues at authorial provenance scattered through the chapters of sacred scrolls. The timeliness, or lackthereof, after the fact. The nature of search engine optimization, and the pace of decay in a feed.
Most importantly, there is the technical achievement that it is no technical achievement to have a blog. The great leveling effect is also a great multiplying effect, and also a great divisor effect. Among all of this worldly chatter, is becomes difficult to have any narrative at all–or, I should say, a narrative distinct from all other narratives that one might want to, you know, say, read. It is easy to copy and Like and link and RT, but it is much more difficult to compose anything with a thingness that is unique. We do the best we can, but more often than not we go scattering to the niches.
The Persona is a big and comfortable niche. Furthermore, a well-deployed author-function in the form of an attractive Persona is one way of bringing a niche to the mainstream. It is personifying the niche, making it more friendly, and giving it, as we might say, Character. The author is really a character in this sort of writing, and that character has to be likable to the readership. The character-function is a powerful function in modern literature, often yoked with its twin ox, the author-function. Notice how many books these days are written in the first-person. Did we lose our taste for the omniscient narrator? Or is it just easier to demote the narrator, and promote the ever-present character that always and foremost is the author to a common-man character? Not so much a death of grand narratives, as a forced equity of narratives. Another leveling. The author has so many component flaws in today’s writing ecology that it is just easier if we excuse him/her as another one of the characters–possibly non-fictional, but as non-serious as a wallpaper pattern when it comes to critical assessment.
Not to say that there isn’t a lot of pressure put on the author-functions, and accordingly, the actual writers who wield these foam swords and masks. When the lines become thin, and the light grows dark, you can easily end up on the wrong side of whatever metaphor-function you are currently attempting to employ. How true to real life must a non-fiction story be? How falsified must a fictional story be? Did Joel Johnson overshare real life in his blogging Persona? Undershare? Is he a jerk? Or justified? Where is the moral compass to help us determine these questions? There isn’t one. Not just because blogging is new, but because the idea of a moral compass that would actual solve such problems is idiotic. These things are solved in the streets, or, in these sorts of literary cases, in the letters to the editor section, and in the comment threads. Hate ‘em or love ‘em, that’s where you find out what is the lowest, basest truth. Just feel lucky to have enough readers that you even get to know one way or the other.
The number of functions that we, as one-person teams of author/publisher/illustrator/editor/characters, have to shuffle and fold together is almost mind boggling. Syndication-function, Twitter-function, Trollslaying-function. What about factchecking-function? Do we still do that? Wikipedilink-function, maybe. SEO-function, obviously. Snark-function? Topical-function? Response-by-way-of-starting-dialogue-function? What is it you want your blogging to be able to do, and what sort of functions should you assemble to make that happen? Cover-page-function? Is it more important that your cover page denote the content inside, sell news stand copies, or not offend elements of your vocal readership? At what point do your readers become editors-by-mob? When do you throw open the gates, straighten your tie, and march to the guillotine, or order the troops to fire? What if the troops won’t shoot? Funny how my analysis of modern technology always comes back around to the socio-politico-problems-of-the-19th-century-function. Well, works for me.
If we’re having problems understanding and organizing our functions, it is because they are important. We know that these are powerful forces, we’re just not sure how to make them work. It is the history of invention–you know something is going on here, but you just haven’t got quite the right mixture yet. Sometimes you go back to the drawing board, like Ambinder. Other times you have to hold your ground against detractors, like Manaugh. Or you could join the mob, like Royal, and maybe even find yourself as the head of the Public Safety Committee (this is just a continuation of my metaphor, not a direct analogy to what Royal was doing).
I think there is a certain segment of the blogger cosmology that doesn’t shy away from the evolving and becoming-visible feedback loops. Call them the prophetic texts, if you will. A certain conservatism of prophets is taken for granted–things change, and that is always dangerous. But there is also an atemporal futurism to every pseudographic apocalypse. The evocation of relevant names. The careful summoning of particular symbolisms. The overblown condemnation, and the ecstatically insane affirmation. The effort to portray oneself as a thing of ancient history, but also as an accurate prognosticator of the shape and sense things to come. Not of pure continuity, but of cyclical presence through change. “I have seen this feedback loop before, and I believe I will indeed see it again.” The effort to find meaning in dreams. To see chimerical beasts in real life. To drink that strange drink, to eat that odd leaf, and live-Tweet your revelations back to the lay folk. We unabashedly analyze our lists of followers. We are always on the lookout for new soapboxes, mounts, and other cliffs on which we can speak, and tempt… what? What is it we are warning against, or rejoicing in the glory of? Is it any such thing? Take a cue from Zarathustra. You can celebrate the negation, but you cannot negate the celebration.
Some people like the institutions, the academies, the fair and balanced, the definite and clear. Luckily, all of this hierarchical control is leaking out into the chaos as much as the chaos floods back into these towers and citadels. Bloggers are having to start figuring out what ad marketing is, as much as they journalists are having to assemble and defend some sort of counter-cultural persona. I say counter-cultural, because it’s all counter-cultural now. No more sub, no more main. Taxonomies are metastasizing. This is an agonist-culture. Not antagonist, not difference for the pleasure of opposition, or what other gains such an attitude might provide. Agonism is the every day state of difference. The positive presence of opposition, and the only means by which anything has a unified number of traits. After all, what is the difference between SEO-function, Twitter-function, and author-function? Only what is no longer treated as the same. We are back to that original differentiation between two things–the primal network connection. Only that connection is everywhere, between every two things you might name, identify as, or write about between two given posts, or between the beginning of a post and its end. Agonism is that vibration, humming out of the vials. Destroying the world, and making it again.
Posted: November 16th, 2010
Comments: No Comments
Magnetic Strip 4x
Magnetic Strip 10x
Magnetic Strip 10x+
Magnetic Strip 40x
Posted: November 15th, 2010
, Small Stuff
Comments: No Comments
This was done for Warren Ellis’ Remodel thread. I always like those, but I don’t draw very well. I do, however, make posters. This will probably be the only Steampunk thing ever to be found on POSZU. And, frankly, it’s not even a very good poster. But I wanted to play along, and so here it is.
I do like the mask though. In my vision, the Steampunk Batman franchise would use the mask as it’s Bat-logo.
PDF, for those who can’t seem to find free Steampunk ephemera ANYWHERE, is here.
Posted: November 12th, 2010
, Motivational Posters
Comments: 1 Comment
Posted: November 12th, 2010
, Small Stuff
Comments: No Comments
Democracy is good at one thing: keeping back the raging mob.
As much as we might vacillate between the Hobbesian model of the war of all against all, and the Rousseian Noble Savage in the debate of what really lies at the core of human nature, we don’t need to be an Enlightenment philosopher to realize that humans are capable of some pretty sick shit. It oozes from us. We see it, bubbling thick and oily like crude from the ocean floor, in the bleachers at sporting events. We can spot it, microscopic but thriving, like bacterial colonies, underneath blog posts in the comments section. It wafts through the air in bars on Friday nights, through the high school cafeteria, unstoppable particles of angst and longing coming through the media airwaves, always already broadcast and received, at the same time decayed and thriving, permeating our systems and our theories alike. Despite how much we love each other and ourselves, we also hate each other and ourselves. And when it comes to love we are often at a loss for words, but when it comes to violence, we have quite to vocabulary. Human society is the psychotic, always an inch away from a break, and yet at the same time completely sane in its own mind and to all who might innocently pass it on the street, sit in the same subway car, ride in the same elevator. We hold down a job, have a complete family life–but come into contact with one of our triggers, and you’re at the battle of Stalingrad. Just another day at the office for human history. We’re not crazy. YOU’RE the one who’s crazy!
But apart from the fear I hope this rightly instills in you (and if it doesn’t, I have a story about meth-induced psychosis for you) democracy is great at lots of other things too. One of them is electing leaders. Throughout the history of democracy, leaders have been elected successfully time and time again. If we take holding back the mob as the primary principle of democracy, electing leaders might be the secondary principle, and a primary strategy for achieving the primary principle. After all, with representation, you have an avatar. You have a disembodied excuse, and a effigy, if needed. So many of the human mob’s characteristics are sublimated up the chain to the leaders, that it is a successful strategy indeed for achieving that primary principle. If that’s what you’re into. Therefore, while not the primary principle itself, electing leaders is a very important task of a democracy. You might, in fact, say that electing leaders is the most successful principle of a democracy–because while not all democracies have succeeded in holding back the mob, all democracies have succeeded in producing leaders.
As for how it produces those leaders–on what infernal machinery it mints that coinage, and into what infernal alloys it bashes those unholy visages–well, those are some other stories. So let’s consider one of these stories, and talk a little bit about how a certain democracy elects its leaders. As our example, a backward little democracy known as the United States. I call this story The Greatest Iteration: Our Plurality to America.
The Greatest Iteration: Our Plurality to America
You see children, America was quite an odd place. Years and years of inter-cultural mixing, reasonably good jobs, and a pretty potent household drug supply had created a country where there was equal parts respect for societal tradition, canonical juridicio-discursivity, and old-fashioned widespread cultural madness. The best way to deal with these conditions and still maintain a system of mostly paved roads was with a democracy, founded by a constitution.
I would say we are going to skip the boring bit by glossing over the history of voting as told through constitutional law–articles one and two, amendments 12, 15, 17, and 19, the 3/5 clause, the Magna Carta (because the Magna Carta is always there if you go back far enough)–but I’m going to end up talking about game theory, so the constitutional law is actually the exciting part. But let me get you up to date: in this scene, America is voting to determine the membership of its bicameral legislature, as determined by Single-Member District Plurality voting.
And you thought it was just a boring midterm election! Well, if you thought democracy was as simple as thumping a pamphlet copy of the constitution, saying the pledge of allegiance, and then showing up to piss on one of two snow piles, that was your first mistake. You may think that voting is simply making a statement about your political beliefs and what the goals of the nation should be. But in actuality, you are one of thousands, nay, millions of pawns in a grand strategy of game theory, statistical sampling, and (wait for gasp of shock) plural matrices!
You see, voting is not merely a matter of one man/woman/child/animal/fetus, one vote. Sure, you are only SUPPOSED to vote once, but then after 300 million (or less than half of that) people vote once, how do you count them? Let the politicking begin!
Most school children and a few adults understand the wacky Electoral College used for electing the American President. The people in each region elect a given number of some other people, who in turn promise to vote for a president. Other than the pomp and circumstance, this is so that states have proportional effect on the choice for president, the exact proportions decided somehow, at sometime, probably by magic. It’s weird, and some people don’t like it. But you don’t mess with magic, especially when it has a distinguished name like “Electoral College”.
Voting for Senator, on the other hand, is simple by comparison. The state votes, and whomever candidate received the most of the votes is the winner. That’s the simplest form of democracy that there is, right?
Wrong! Single-Member District Plurality is only one way, of many ways, of counting votes. It means there is a single person elected, based on a plurality within the district. Because the senators are chosen by the States, and each State has borders we are accustomed to (also determined by magic) Senators seem logical. But what about the House of Representatives? Where the hell is Oregon 2? Michigan 16? Are these determined by a magic that makes sense, or a magic that is very crazy?
The magic works by redistricting, made law in 1967. Each state decides its own district borders, which are supposed to be proportioned by population. “Gerrymandering” is the act of designing these districts to reduce the impact of certain voting blocs. The Voting Rights Act specifically makes illegal gerrymandering aimed at take advantages of racial differences. But other forms of “malapportionment” are harder to identify. And in the end, you have to draw the line somewhere. This somewhere makes a difference.
Here’s a hypothetical example to describe gerrymandering, from Wikipedia:
In brief, suppose that governing party G wishes to reduce the seats that will be won by opposition party O in the next election. It creates a number of constituencies in each of which O has an overwhelming majority of votes. O will win these seats, but a large number of its voters will waste their votes. Then the rest of the constituencies are designed with small majorities for G. Few G votes are wasted, and G will win a large number of seats by small margins. As a result of the gerrymander, O’s seats have cost it more votes than G’s seats.
Now, gerrymandering is only possible because of single-member district pluralities. Because only one candidate can win in any district, anybody voting for a candidate other than the winner has their vote “wasted”, at least when it comes to representation. So using a bloc’s votes “efficiently” by gerrymandering the district lines only has an effect because there is a difference between a vote used “efficiently” and a vote “wasted”.
There are alternatives to the SMPD method, that minimize wasted votes, thereby reducing the propensity for gerrymandering. Cumulative voting is one method–where each voter gets multiple votes, and the winner is chosen from all votes tallied. This measures the weight of support more directly, and allows a voter to choose to not risk “throwing away” the vote completely. There is also the Single Transferable Vote, in which the voter ranks the candidates, and more than one representative from the district is elected, based on the totaled weights of all the ranks. But these systems have their own quirks, of course.
In fact, there are many, many systems, with many quirks. If, perhaps, you got the dangerous idea into your head that perhaps another system was more representative of the constituency, and in other words, more democratic, you suddenly would have quite a menu of options on your hands. And suddenly, democracy is sooooo complicated! People who study such things have given these systems and quirks names, thankfully. The systems have names like Borda count, Instant Runoff Voting, Ranked Pairs, Schulze, Minimax, and Kemeny-Young. The quirks, called “criteria”, have names like Monotone, Condorcet, Condorcet Loser, Later-no-harm, Reversal Symmetry, Polynomial Time, and Clone Independence. Different systems satisfy different criteria, but none satisfy all. Luckily, Wikipedia has a handy chart to let you see how they all measure up. You can also decipher what they mean, because I don’t understand it all myself.
So while the magic of Single-Member District Plurality senate elections seemed as American as apple pie, and the risk of gerrymandering an acceptable one, the choice of SMDP for elections in the context of all these other options now seems suddenly uncomfortably targeted and “scientific”. What happened to One Legal-Definition-Of-A-Person, one vote? Now it’s theorems and equations, rankings and point-values. Sounds un-American, frankly.
I mean, I would put up with a little borderline gerrymandering here and there. Politics as usual. But Minimax? Isn’t that some sort of science-fiction? And Game Theory? Are you meaning to tell me that voting, the duty of every citizen, is reducible according to the same equations as the Prisoner’s Dilemma? Tweaking the district lines to support the good old boys is one thing, but telling me my decision in representation is basically a complicated logic problem is another.
But this is how our madness is contained. Rather than the war of all against all, we have the low-impact battle of attrition that is single-member district plurality. The intensity of the mob is reduced and sublimated to a single choice once a year, and to anyone interested in analyzing them, methods of counting these single choices. How to dismantle an explosive human society by sublimating political action from street violence into a series of choices: Democracy! No method works without some quirks–because strangely enough, it seems that equal representation is beset by the options it provides. Just like human culture, there are too many people on earth for everyone to be on the outside how they are on the inside. It isn’t possible for a method of representation to sync exactly to the simplicity of the idea of representation we choose to accept as “a cornerstone of our democracy”. The Rights of Man, (and fetuses) as it turns out, is too simple to be mathematically viable as-is. Humanism, just like rational choice, is a simplification that allows us to conduct daily life relatively peaceably, and figure out who wins without as much bloodshed. To go to the mall without being beset by bandits. To transfer power to a new king, err, I mean representative public servant, without a series of hangings. And so, every November we construct a series of plural matrices, and from a collection of Boolean answers to vague questions, a nation is born.
This is what little America has done for itself, in order to keep existing in spite of the forces that would tear it apart. We have a SMDP system, which through a bicameral legislature, separates small populationally proportionate areas of the country from larger, arbitrary groupings of the general population. Therefore, we see the majority opinion of territories visible in the House, but the majority of the population’s opinion visible in the Senate. Cities, with their centralized populations, affect the Senate election matrix more overwhelmingly, while their effect is diminished in proportion to the districted, and therefore more rural representatives elected to the House. This effect carries even further with the President. Also aiding the general effect is the two-party system, a necessary eventuality of SMDP, according to Duverger’s Law. From the wide-ranging choice of human terror options to visit upon fellow humans, for a plethora of reasons, America has distilled a choice between two similar options, from which both options will end up in some way sort of represented, as each option has developed corresponding to the nature of this split between affinities of the more-rural territories, and the more-urban population. Out of many, two–and a mostly non-violent two, to boot. Not a bad little chemistry demonstration, if you ask me. Over 300 million dangerous animals reduced to two colors. Amazing, really.
And thank goodness, because no matter how the US or any country elects their leaders, or whether they do, or whether they satisfy the constraints of the Condorcet Loser Criteria*, it still has to hold back the mob. And that, in the end, is why we like democracy. Right? Because otherwise, we’d be gnawing each other’s limbs off right now. Right?
*The US does not: Condorcet Loser Criteria describes a condition in which a candidate who is less liked by the population when compared individually to any other candidate still wins a plurality election, because positive vote opposition to that candidate is split among several candidates, leaving their core of supporters with the plurality. Say 25% of a population like Candidate A, while 75% hate him more than any other candidate. Yet when election day comes, 25% of that 75% vote for candidate B, or 18.75% of the general population. The same amont vote for C, for D, and for E. Meanwhile, the 25% of the population who likes A votes for him, and so he wins, with the split being 25/18.75/18.75/18.75/18.75. 75% of the population ends up with a representative they detest.
Posted: November 3rd, 2010
Tags: death drive
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