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Katherine Shonfield

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A prevalent feeling characterises modern life. It is that lurking sensation that you will inevitably trip over a branch of McDonald's halfway up Kilimanjaro. Until now, the US has been the undisputed Machiavelli behind the uneasy and universal sense of deja vu which gets vaguely summed up in the term 'globalisation'. But the fallout from the US presidential election has resulted in an unexpected fillip to all those architects - and others - who promote regionalism and individuality. The fact that voting techniques and ballot papers vary, not just state by state, but by county, reveals, unequivocally, that local culture is alive and kicking in the mother of uniformity and mass production.

This clinging on to the principle of individuality comes right down to the minute architecture of the voting card itself. In an attempt, presumably, to eliminate the unreliability associated with the body, the card is punched by machine, not marked by hand. However, the fallibility of body and machine combined means that punches themselves have become equivocal, and the machines, it seems, are incapable of the architectural subtleties which could determine when a punch is or is not a punch.

The papers have been full of pictures of anxious people holding the cards up to the light.

They have all the earnestness of a bunch of Classicists disputing the authenticity or otherwise of a column capital - and they have even acquired the accompanying, quaintly archaic vocabulary. If a perforation is not complete, but lets in any light, it may, in the architecture of the card, be deemed a window or a 'hanging chad'. If the window remains blind, its meaning is up for grabs, and therefore a 'dimpled chad'. It seems that this entire, gloriously absurd event is a cautionary tale for an electronic age, conjured up by subversive anti-globalisation activists to prove the indispensability of the human touch over the machine.

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