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					                                    Mobile Ad Hoc Voting
                                           Joan Morris DiMicco
                                           MIT Media Laboratory
                                          20 Ames Street, E15-448
                                         Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
                                              +1 617 252 1603

ABSTRACT                                                  decision, either through the application or through
When building mobile ad hoc network applications          the immediate impact on their environment. Imagine
designed for collaboration, one must consider the         these three distinct decision-making scenarios:
impact time and location has on an individual’s           •   The ambient noise in a public setting is
ability to express opinions and make decisions. This          determined through a group-controlled interface.
paper proposes building a distributed ad hoc voting           Individuals entering the space and are prompted
application, which allows users to spontaneously              to vote on their choice of ambient noise (or
votes on issues across a mobile network. The                  silence). The tallied votes result in a gradual
application will be used to study issues of human             shift in noise level over time.
judgment and decision making within varying
decision contexts.                                        •   Political opinions are gathered on urban
                                                              development issues within the urban space to be
Keywords                                                      developed. When individuals are in the vicinity
Mobile ad-hoc networks, voting, CSCW, judgment                of the urban space, they are able to vote on
and decision-making                                           issues related to budgeting, development, and
INTRODUCTION                                                  spending priorities.
Mobile ad hoc networks provide exciting
                                                          •   A group of co-workers are simultaneously asked
opportunities for collaboration among distributed
                                                              to choose representative employees to be sent to
groups of people by providing a means for gathering
                                                              a meeting later in the day. Over a short time
preferences and opinions across time and space.
                                                              frame, each employee can cast a vote and
With this potential, there is the possibility of
                                                              surveys the results over the network.
alleviating the frustration often associated with real-
time, face-to-face meetings: laborious discussion of      Each of these scenarios presents a situation in which
multiple opinions, lack of consensus, and the feeling     voting would allow for efficient gathering of
of “wasting time.” Voting mechanisms, as a means          individual opinion across distributed locations and
of preference gathering, also offer an option for         time periods. We plan to build an application which
quick, instantaneous information gathering amongst        would enable each of these scenarios.
groups of people, alleviating the time required for       Often times, such as in the scenarios given, time and
more free-form collaboration. Incorporated into a         location are not crucial factors in making the voting
mobile ad hoc network, voting applications can be         decision. Each of these decisions could be made at a
implemented easily across a network of distributed        polling booth or through static, paper ballots.
individuals, presenting a tempting alternative to         Therefore, initially, it is not clear why it is
time consuming, inconclusive meetings.                    interesting to build a mobile ad hoc voting system.
This paper proposes building a voting application         While we do not think the mobile and distributed
across a network of individual mobile devices. This       nature of voting participants should affect the
application will allow groups of people to                impact or opinion of individuals, we believe it does
spontaneously voice opinions on issues, and               and is worth studying.
immediately see the impact of their vote on the

Our objective in building a mobile voting                 researching different options for an appropriate
application is to develop a platform for                  MANET. We will aim to incorporate this voting
understanding the behavioral effects time and             application with other voting interfaces we are
location have on individual decision-making               developing which examine other modalities and
behavior. For example, imagine the second scenario        behavioral effects.
involved voting on whether or not to increase toll
rates, and individuals could vote at home or while                                       BALLOT
                                                                       CREATE BALLOTS
they drove through a tollbooth. Instinctively, we            Active        & VOTE        BALLOT    •Manage ballots
know that individuals at the tollbooth will be more                                       BALLOT   •Tally votes
resistant to toll increases because they are currently                                             •Report results
                                                             Passive    RECEIVE ALERTS
                                                                                                   •Implement decisions
aware of the cost of each toll. Yet, also by asking          Voters        VOTE
voters at the tollbooth their opinion, the level of
interest and participation of voters will be much
                                                                        Figure 1. Proposed Architecture
higher than those at home because of the current
relevancy of the question.
                                                          BEHAVIORAL HYPOTHESES
As this example of voting on toll increases illustrate,
                                                          The field of cognitive psychology demonstrates that
we believe there are influences of time and location
                                                          when individuals make decisions under uncertainty,
on individuals’ decision-making ability. With a
                                                          they use environmental cues and the context of the
distributed voting application in place, we plan to
                                                          question to frame their decisions [3]. Individuals are
run experiments with different ballot questions and
                                                          influenced by their surrounding environment, for
formats to formalize our understanding of
                                                          example, using events such as the weather to
contextual influences on group decision-making.
                                                          determine their level of life satisfaction [1] and
PROPOSED APPLICATION                                      using the format of the question to assist them in
We will be building a mobile application for voting       determining which issues are important to them [2].
which allows individuals to create ballots, alert         These behavioral factors are important to consider in
participants of new ballots, cast votes on ballots, and   the design of any application for decision-making
see tallied results. The communication between            and collaboration. We believe time and space have
participants and the mobile network is presented in a     an impact on individual decision-making, Our two
general diagram in Figure 1. An important aspect of       hypotheses involved an individual’s desire to vote
the diagram is that there are two types of voters:        and an individual’s final choice.
active and passive. An individual can be either
active or passive, depending on the role he/she plays     Hypothesis 1: A voter’s participation increases when the
in ballot creation.                                       ballot issues relate to the voter’s current time and
This application will allow for multiple                  location.
configurations of ballots, including different types
of voting schemes such as ranking and point               One of the frustrations of the United States
allocation. Additionally, information about how           government is the nation’s lack of voter
participants voted can be revealed during the             participation. Many voters claim issues are “not
election process, either anonymously or identified.       relevant” to them. Taken within the context of
Election results may be presented on the client           mobile ad hoc networking, when an individual is
devices or may be expressed through the                   within a time and location that is highly related to
implementation of the group decision (for example,        the ballot’s issue, we predict that they will be more
an adjustment of the ambient noise in a public            likely to participate in the voting process. We
space).                                                   propose to first test this hypothesis with our
We are considering mobile phones or network-
enabled PDAs as the client-side device. These
                                                          Hypothesis 2: When making a voting decision, an
devices would network within a configurable mobile        individual will over-weigh the importance of his/her
ad hoc network (MANET). We are currently

current context, resulting in decisions driven by short-   it is commonly thought that individuals’ preferences
term goals.                                                are well thought out and stable over time. This is
                                                           often not the case, as shown by cognitive
We hypothesize that individuals will be more               psychologists. Our proposed application and
shortsighted when their current time and location          subsequent experimental study will demonstrate the
relate to the issue they are voting on. The converse       impact of context (time and location) on an
of this hypothesis is: voters will have a longer-term      individual’s participation and goals in making
perspective when removed from the issue’s context.         decisions.
An example of this would be asking drivers on a toll
                                                           This application study will result in implications for
road to vote on a toll increase as they drove through
                                                           the development of any MANET application. If our
the tollbooth. While longer term issues such as
                                                           study successfully demonstrates that decision-
highway development and government funding may
                                                           makers are influenced more by short-term
be important social concerns for the individual, at
                                                           motivations when they are brought to focus, then
the moment of paying the toll, these social goals are
                                                           any tools built for collaborative work need to be
less relevant than the act of paying the toll. Our
                                                           aware of the impact a user’s context. Our two
prediction is, when asked questions that involve a
                                                           hypotheses taken together indicate that voters will
specific location or action, such as paying a toll,
                                                           voice their short-term opinions more readily and
individuals will be more influenced by their current,
                                                           more frequently than their long-term goals. While
short-term goals than their long-term objectives.
                                                           for certain decisions this may be ideal, for decisions
While these hypotheses remain to be tested with our        which involve social welfare or longer term visions
application, there are several implications of these       for the group, spontaneous, distributed voting may
effects. If individuals are voting on issues that          not be beneficial.
involve numerous long-term issues, then individuals
                                                           One recommendation for designing MANET
should be removed from the context of the issue, so
                                                           applications is to consider re-framing ballot
as to not be unduly influenced by shortsighted
                                                           questions in terms of context. By drawing
objectives. Yet, the first hypothesis indicates that in
                                                           individuals out of their current framework of time
order to increase voter participation and individual
                                                           and location, questions can be rephrased to
involvement in group decisions, it is best to build
                                                           encourage longer-term perspectives, while still
applications which presents issues at the moment
                                                           encouraging participation by connecting to the near-
they are most salient in individuals’ minds. The
                                                           term relevancy.
design ramifications for mobile ad hoc voting
systems are complex, and in the course of running          With the results of our experimental study, we aim
ballot experiments we hope to attain an                    to develop more recommendations for MANET
understanding of when MANET applications are               application development.
appropriate for voting decisions and when not.             REFERENCES
CONCLUSION                                                 1.      Schwarz, N. and Clore, G.L. Mood,
Voting, as a method for groups to efficiently express      misattribution, and judgments of well-being:
preferences on timely issues, is well suited for a         Informative and directive functions of affective
MANET application. MANET technology can                    states. Journal of Personality and Social
enhance a voting experience by incorporating time          Psychology, 45. 513-523.
and location into the decision-making process. This        2.      Shafir, E., Simonson, I. and Tversky, A.
paper proposes building such a voting application          Reason-Based Choice. in Tversky, A. and
designed for distributed decision-making.                  Kahneman, D. eds. Choices, Values, and Frames,
While this application will be a useful tool for ad-       Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, 597-
hoc group decisions, more importantly, this                619.
application will provide a platform for studying the       3.      Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D. Choices,
impact of time and location on individual behavior.        Values, and Frames. Cambridge University Press,
Particularly within the context of a political election,   Cambridge, 2000.


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