Informational Literacy and Decision-Making in Elections

Posted by M ws On Friday, April 12, 2013 2 comments
According to THIS SITE, we all need information literacy for a few reasons including:

Being information literate ultimately improves our quality of life as we make informed decisions when buying a house, choosing a school, hiring staff, making an investment, voting for our representatives, and so much more. Information Literacy is, in fact, the basis of a sound democracy. 
As U.S. Representative Major R. Owens has said "Information literacy is needed to guarantee the survival of democratic institutions. All men are created equal but voters with information resources are in a position to make more intelligent decisions than citizens who are information illiterates."
Academicians or policy makers might want to check out this report AT THIS LINK.

Come May 5, all registered voters who have met the EC conditions will be going to the polls to engage in a massive group decision-making process.

According to this site:

Group decision making (also known as collaborative decision making) is a situation faced when individuals collectively make a choice from the alternatives before them. This decision is no longer attributable to any single individual who is a member of the group.

This is because all the individuals and social group processes such as social influence contribute to the outcome. The decisions made by groups are often different from those made by individuals.

Group polarization is one clear example: groups tend to make decisions that are more extreme than those of its individual members, in the direction of the individual inclinations.

There is much debate as to whether this difference results in decisions that are better or worse. According to the idea of synergy, decisions made collectively tend to be more effective than decisions made by a single individual. However, there are also examples where the decisions made by a group are flawed, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the incident on which the Groupthink model of group decision making is based.

Factors that impact other social group behaviours also affect group decisions. For example, groups high in cohesion, in combination with other antecedent conditions (e.g. ideological homogeneity and insulation from dissenting opinions) have been noted to have a negative effect on group decision making and hence on group effectiveness. Moreover, when individuals make decisions as part of a group, there is a tendency to exhibit a bias towards discussing shared information (i.e., shared information bias), as opposed to unshared information.

Formal Systems

Consensus decision-making tries to avoid "winners" and "losers". Consensus requires that a majority approve a given course of action, but that the minority agree to go along with the course of action. In other words, if the minority opposes the course of action, consensus requires that the course of action be modified to remove objectionable features.


Voting-based methods

Range voting lets each member score one or more of the available options. The option with the highest average is chosen. This method has experimentally been shown to produce the lowest Bayesian regret among common voting methods, even when voters are strategic.

Majority requires support from more than 50% of the members of the group. Thus, the bar for action is lower than with unanimity and a group of "losers" is implicit to this rule.

Plurality, where the largest block in a group decides, even if it falls short of a majority.

Delphi method is structured communication technique for groups, originally developed for collaborative forecasting but has also been used for policy making.

Dotmocracy is a facilitation method that relies on the use of special forms called Dotmocracy Sheets to allow large groups to collectively brainstorm and recognize agreement on an unlimited number of ideas they have authored. MORE HERE.

With IT and communications technology, voters can now be more savvy, intelligent and informed. THIS SITE makes interesting propositions with regards to approval voting as the key to intelligent elections.

I surmise that what Malaysia needs is two-way communication whereby voters can compare and debate their opinions with the candidates, learn about critical issues and together brainstorm how these could be resolved.

Such ambiance would ensure a healthy environment for growth and discourse instead of the current one-way type of communication whereby social media and MSM dictate the political agenda and then either lead or mislead the masses (depending on a variety of socio-economic characteristics of voters) and then these email/forward such information or indulge in casual coffee-shop discussions which bring little value.

Why do parties/candidates have great reluctance to provide avenues of analysis for voters whereby they can compare the views of a particular constituent with that of a candidate to see if the latter is in tune with their needs? For instance, a survey could list critical issues in the country for constituents to check their opinions. Close-ended analysis ratings such as "strongly agree"; "agree" ;"neutral" ; "disagree"; "strongly disagree"; "no comments" could be offered in the survey after which results of the constituents would be compared with that of the candidates.

Well-moderated forums discussing critical issues such as economic problems, legal issues, cultural policies, labor concerns, education and so on woud definitely raise the pitch of debate by a few notches ensuring that speakers are able to contend with intelligent and informed voters. Once that is in place, there is a greater possibility that only candidates of calibre stand for office.

At the same time, instead of splurging $$$ on banners, buntings and all kinds of paraphernalia mushrooming around neighbourhoods which benefit the industry more than voters, I wish political parties would spend time and money on voter education and provide vital information about the candidate such as via a CD or booklet that lists the bio data, political views, service record and aspirations of the candidate.

Campaigning on a more sophisticated level rather than hitting below the belt kind of overtures would certainly step up the quality and class of debates and ceramahs. Candidates must remember that ceramahs should not be for entertainment but information and persuasion. There is a tendency for the crowd to flock to ceramahs which feature charismatic and/or witty speakers who can make them roar or applaud loudly. However, the volume of such 'support' may not reflect the actual voting trends. Yet, these scenarios are either played up or down depending on the approach taken by respective writers/media. Worse still would be cases whereby the response is negative e.g. small crowd or comments misinterpreted/misreported/exaggerated. 

For a democratic system to succeed, we must havbe free and fair media. However, we often emphasize 'free' rather than 'fair' forgetting how forms of media controlled and manipulated by the powers that be would not only hinder but also hide political transparency. Consequently, politicians and organizations can use rhetorical and media manipulation to simulate the political virtues of transparency. And voters have to watch out of these when exposing themselves to messages because unseen hands could be controlling the political debate to the extent that what one sees in social media may not mirror reality.

Informational literacy is so vital when making voting decisions because we must remember who creates political reality.

Who has the means to provide the platform for political debate in this country?

Where is the political stage where puppets politicians strut around whilst voters applaud at the 'show' before they vote for their favourite actor?

Think. Who writes the script?

Who defines acceptable/unacceptable content?

Who selects the 'players' based on what type of selection criteria?

The sad news is whoever controls the political stage has the power to control and influence the political debate and process.

And one of the best ways to escape this net is to think and to be information literate.

Do not simply believe anything or everything. Look out for fallacies and test the veracity of information.

May God bless Malaysia with a fair and peaceful polling day whereby good men and women are elected to office by registered and genuine voters.

2 comments to Informational Literacy and Decision-Making in Elections

  1. says:

    Taikohtai G'day, thought you might want to share this with your mature readers:

    A male patient is lying in bed in the hospital, wearing an oxygen
    mask over his mouth and nose. A young student nurse appears and
    gives him a partial sponge bath.

    "Nurse,"' he mumbles from behind the mask, "are my testicles black?"

    Embarrassed, the young nurse replies, "I don't know, Sir. I'm only
    here to wash your upper body and feet."

    He struggles to ask again, "Nurse, please check for me. Are my
    testicles black?"

    Concerned that he might elevate his blood pressure and heart rate
    from worrying about his testicles, she overcomes her embarrassment
    and pulls back the covers.
    She raises his gown, holds his manhood in one hand and his testicles
    gently in the other.

    She looks very closely and says, "There's nothing wrong with them,
    Sir. They look fine."

    The man slowly pulls off his oxygen mask, smiles at her, and says
    very slowly, "Thank you very much. That was wonderful. Now listen
    very, very closely:

    Are - my - test - results - back?"

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith LOL!! Thank you very much, Taikotai, for sharing this. Really defuses the intense seriousness of this post written in one of my serious moments.

    In response, allow me to share another experience that an air stewardess friend shared with me.

    Apparently, someone had left sth in the washroom in the plane so one of the stewardesses announced...

    "Will the owner of this pair of testicles please come and collect it from me?"


    Have a great day!

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