A Whale, please!

Hooray, there is a new exciting project!

There will be elections at the FernUniversität in Hagen in March next year. Among other things, the students will vote to decide on the composition of the student parliament. Political elections are the central means of a democracy: a group of people can express their will and appoint representatives. They give the office holders their legitimacy. And yet, there is a regular struggle to achieve a reasonable voter turnout. Especially in the elections for the student parliament or the student council of a university the participation is typically close to negligible. In the last elections at the FernUniversität in Hagen only ~ 11% of those eligible to vote exercised their right to vote.

One of the main reasons is probably the difficult assessment of the candidates. Students usually do not know the names on the lists, and are probably too busy to investigate the large number of candidates. Understandable! In 2014, after all, almost 150 candidates ran for the coveted seats in the student parliament.

In search of a solution to this problem, the AStA of the FernUniversität in Hagen wants a technical tool that makes it possible to compare individual positions with those of the candidates. So they want their own Wahl-O-Mat… (We from the coast are less fussy with words)

Logo of the DeinWal project
Logo of the DeinWal project

The AStA approached Tom and me, as we already demonstrated with DeinWal that we can realise something like this. They however did not only approach us, but also to developers of other decision-making tools: Everyone could apply for the project with a concept and an offer. After a tendering phase, the concepts were reviewed and apparently I was able to prevail. And now I am very happy that I have the chance to implement this exciting project! :)

From DeinWal I already learnt how much a matter of interpretation politics can be. My horizons are of course only limited and unfortunately I cannot absolve myself of some prejudices (even if I don’t like to admit it to myself). So I am happy that I was able to motivate a small crew for the project. The core team consists of 2 employees:

  • Sophie Flack is a political scientist who not only specializes in party research, but also has an exceptionally international perspective. For example, Sophie studied in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and most recently worked in the Consulate General of Chile.
  • Martin Peters is a DevOps engineer and software developer who has an impressive feeling for web applications. He works for a company in the maritime logistics and tracking industry. Martin focuses on the development of modern web applications, the optimization of development processes and the analysis of stream data. With Martin I already did some cool projects in the past.

In addition, a few helpers will support us if necessary:

  • For the protection of your personal data, we have brought competent support into the team with the data-protection-concern-beam Benjamin Winter. He helps us to find the stumbling blocks on that subject and to get them out of the way.
  • The mathematician and data scientist Saptarshi Bej from the University of Rostock pays attention that we don’t do mistakes when developing the evaluations.
  • Last but not least, Tom Theile is also available for discussions. Unfortunatelly, for private reasons he cannot join full-time.

Since the concept of DeinWal is a bit different (and very special), we decided to name the new platform differently. We already have some funny ideas, but a final decision is still pending. A little whale will definitely be included, but we won’t reveal more yet! :)

In any case, the contracts are all signed, and we are highly motivated to develop a tool that will support the students of the FernUniversität in Hagen in making their next choice. In particular, we would also like to show that these “technical aids” can be implemented in a data-protection-friendly and barrier-free manner, but do not need to be boring!

I’m looking forward to see how much innovation we can incorporate into the tool without losing focus and clarity!

So, whale ahoi!