10 July 2013: Doubt & Indecision workshop

Today's workshop was lead by guest artist Matthias Conrady, who travelled from Cologne to try a series of experiments in group decision-making, hesitation and doubt. We used Matthias' systems to create editions 7 and 8 of The Beginners Guide to Consent from a large collection of possible texts on consent.

In the first round, workshop participants sorted the collection of texts into two piles: 'Yes' (to be included in the zine), and 'No' (to be left out). However, the 'no' pile was not then discarded, but subject to further scrutiny.

"'No' has a value that is more than just 'trash', or 'nothing'... It's a mind-trick you play on yourself if you say really 'No' to something; basically a decision is a mind-trick."
- guest facilitator Matthias Conrady

Rating the 'No' pile

Each text in the 'No' pile was then given a score (0-5) by each participant, without conferring. We discussed how to interpret the resulting scores. (See table below). If we ranked the texts based on the total number of '5's each recieved, the zine would contain texts E, F, D and G. If however we counted up the highest total scores, texts E, G, D and O would win. It became clear that these results could be interpreted in numerous different ways. In the end, the group decided to chop off both very high, and very low scores - an exact inverse of the 'anti-mediocrity' system devised by Florian Cramer in the 21 June workshop. Edition 7 thus contained the texts G, O, X and D (in that order).

Key: first place, second place, third place, fourth place, fifth or below.

Blind Individual Ratings (0-5) Interpretation: '5' tally Interpretation: Highest total score Interpretation: Ignore 5 & 0 scores
B 0,0,1,1,1,3,3,4,5 1 18
I 0,0,0,0,0,0,2,2,5 1 9
E 1,2,4,5,5,5,5,5,5 6 37
G 0,0,0,4,4,4,4,5,5 2 26
X 0,0,0,0,0,0,2,3,3 0 8
D 0,1,1,2,4,4,4,5,5 2 26
F 0,0,0,0,3,3,5,5,5 3 21
O 0,2,3,3,3,3,3,4,5 1 26
Edition 7

Sorting the 'Yes' Pile

The 12 texts in the 'yes' pile were then subject to a simple hands-up vote, with the option to vote yes, no, or abstain. (See table below).

Again, the group discussed the various ways this vote could be interpreted. Should 'no' votes be interpreted as a veto? Should a score be worked out based on the total number of both 'yes' and 'no' votes a text recieved, or simply count which ones had the biggest majority of 'yes' votes? Whoever makes this decision has a significant influence upon the final selection.

Repetition and Deferral

For edition #8, Matthias introduced a sorting system devised by the pedagogue Leitner, in which texts are recursively sorted into 'yes' or 'no' piles, and progress through the system based on the number of times they land in the yes pile. Originally a tool for learning vocabulary, we applied this method to the dilemma of narrowing down the remaining 'yes' pile. Throughout the workshop we returned to it, being asked again and again to reconsider our opinions on the same texts.


We discussed the effects of repeteated questions on our decision-making. Being given time allows us to reconsider; however, it can be used coercively to secure a given result. It also excludes those without the stamina for a protracted democratic process - a similar issue raised by the painstaking decision-making 'matrix' designed by Mariska in the 3 July workshop. We used the 'majority of yeses' counting method when voting, to arrive at the top four texts for edition #8.

Key: first place, second place, third place, fourth place, fifth or below.

Hands-up vote: Yes Hands-up vote: No Interpretation: Majority of Yeses? Interpretation: No = Veto Interpretation: Total score (Yes = 1, No = -1) Final 'yes' pile after repetitition using 'Majority of Yeses' method
C 1 2 -1
H 0 2 -2
Q 3 0 3
M 4 1 3
V 5 1 four
T 1 1 0
K 9 0 9
A 2 0 2
S 6 0 6
R 2 2 1
W 1 3 -2
N 9 0 9
Edition 8

Type: