Democracy is a design problem: How changes in design change the outcome of elections

Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 7:00pm
Dana Chisnell
Lecturer Photo

This is a story about how a simple change in type size on a commonly used form led to two major wars and a world wide economic crisis. Design matters.

We keep learning this lesson on ballots, on web sites, in software and devices, and in the interactions we have with customers and users. And yet, there are glimmers of hope everywhere -- successful designs where small changes made all the positive difference. Dana will discuss some of the lesser-known disasters, show some surprising successes, and share results from her research and usability testing on ballot designs and instructions to voters.

Even if your day job is seemingly far away from world-changing events, Dana will show you how you, too, can get involved and start contributing your super powers to make your world a better place.

Dana is the person federal and state election officials call on when they need to do something about ballot usability and design.

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This joint meeting of the GBC/ACM and the Boston Chapter of the IEEE Computer Society on Social Implications of Technology.

Over the last 8 years, Dana E. Chisnell has trained more than a thousand election officials to test the design of their ballots to avoid costly mistakes and unwarranted attention. She's given highly rated presentations and workshops for a dozen state election departments and conferences, as well as voter advocacy groups and secretaries of state.
As a member of the Brennan Center for Justice's ballot design task force, Dana advises on plain language, ballot design, and usability testing. She's also one of the leaders of the Usability in Civic Life Project, which developed the LEO Usability Testing Kit, a simple training tool for local election officials.

Twill be held in MIT Room E51-315. E51 is the Tang Center on the corner of Wadsworth and Amherst Sts and Memorial Dr.; it's mostly used by the Sloan School. You can see it on this map of the MIT campus. Room 315 is on the 3rd floor.