Mapping. That’s what we’ve been up to – sort of like Lewis & Clark – charting the course of our OSET expedition. And similar to the trials and tribulations of explorers Lewis & Clark, I was hunkered down for days due to weather in the Pacific Northwest thwarting my return passage back to the Bay Area following the holidays. So please excuse my radio silence. And the same for John, who in addition to spending more time mapping than blogging (obviously) was also snow bound in Lake Tahoe for several more days than planned. But we’re back in the saddle.
So, today I want to start some discussion about specific work of the OSET Institute, especially in this national election year. We’ve never had any delusions or misguided notions that the work of this Institute could have any demonstrative impact in 2008 on how America votes in a digital democracy. That observed (throughout our communications and content), we do, in fact, have a simple goal of being actively engaged in the conversation about how America votes. Moreover, there are several items that we intend to work on and produce that will directly impact our larger effort in re-inventing digital voting technology. Each of these projects below should put us into the conversation. And that is hugely important. The only way to properly design the next generation of trustworthy voting technology is to do so in a transparent, publicly vetted,open source manner. And catalyzing, as well as participating, in the conversation(s) about how America votes (and I am not referring to outcomes or candidate choosing, but the mechanical processes of casting, tallying, and verifying voter ballots) is a fundamental first step in that effort. Incidentally, each of these projects (save the last one below) has a specific budget which will be individually funded by larger donors. So, let me provide you with a top level overview of a couple of these projects for 2008 – in no particular order of importance or priority.
- Process Diagramming. It has come to our attention that (believe it or not) there are no simple, yet comprehensive visual diagrams, or “maps” of the process of elections and voting. And we believe that in order to thoroughly design – from the ground up – truly trustworthy transparent digital voting technology we must completely understand the processes as they stand today. Therefore, one of our top projects for this year is a comprehensive visual mapping of the process of elections.
- Observance. A significant undertaking we’re planning is a nationwide observation of the election process in action during the November general election. This exciting “I Witness” program will engage “certified” voting observers who will witness and record – through words and pictures – America voting at a selection of 250 polling stations around the nation. All of the gathered observations will be compiled and cataloged at the OSET Institute web site. This material will serve as the foundation for Requirements Gathering processes in the design of next generation digital voting technology. NOTE: We use the term “observance” because it refers to not only the act (observing), but because we take the process of America voting as something ceremonious to democracy, and a process we respect, value, and will treat with due deference and reverence.
- Authoring. We also believe it is imperative to compile a solid foundation of information on the process of voting in a democracy – chronicling the past, reviewing the present, and projecting the future. We anticipate this will result in a book: Decisis – How America Votes in a Digital Democracy, to be co-authored by myself and John Sebes, our CTO. This project may seek some research grants, but largely will be supported by ourselves.
This is far from all that the OSET Institute intends to do this year. For more information, visit the Lab. And this does not include the operational projects we’re under-taking, including building out the core architecture team staff, the volunteer ranks, and continuing to develop our Board of Advisors. If you’re interested in any of these items, please get a hold of us!