Voting Results for Worthy

Worthy tallied votes over its five days on the playa. Below are the results for its 14 topics. Understand that actually I don’t care much about the results because I asked people to vote to make them think. Still, I care about the results somewhat, and I see that I correctly anticipated most of them, but there were a few surprises.


I had hoped that Burners would appreciate our relatively recent confirmation that our Sun is not the only star that is orbited by planets, but I was gratified by the extent of the appreciation that the votes showed. It’s a curious result because it says that Burners enjoy learning that they are not alone but are a member of a larger group.



The silly Style article from the New York Times generated results in the hoped-for direction, but I was surprised that there was little concern about Kanye West’s public disrespect of then-19-year-old Taylor Swift during the VMAs. Even though both topics involved celebrities, I had hoped that the results would have been stronger for Taylor Swift.

I chose the Amal Clooney panel because originally it inspired me to choose the two voting alternatives that the installation uses. Understand that the Style article was published in the New York Times one week after the Charlie Hebdo massacre when other articles and editorials on that topic still were being published. While I decided to leave out that context, the results remain highly skewed.



Fortunately people seem to care about vaccination, but not with a large margin. Vaccinating oneself helps others too, but this question didn’t try to show how much this fact affects respondents’ votes.



I believed that Sports would be unpopular, but I wasn’t sure how much. This topic choice was motivated by looking at a list of New York Times newspaper sections and choosing one that I automatically skip every day.



Results for the pair of religion topics were not a surprise. Numbers from the Black Rock City 2014 Census correctly predicted the results of the Religion topic, and my own understanding of Burners correctly predicted the results of the Freedom of Religion topic. So Burners are not as interested in organized religion themselves, but they support the interests of others.


More Passion, More Votes

I had hoped that many people would accept this invitation to reject authority, and from the tally it appears that some did! This is the only topic with a five-digit count. I placed this panel midway along the wall so that people would encounter it after already voting on a few items. The idea was to make them think whether to go back and cast additional votes, or not.


Politics and Personality

I actually wasn’t sure how the definitions of Democratic-tending and Republican-tending personality traits would be interpreted. The Black Rock City 2014 Census reports that more Burners are Democrats, and the final votes favor the Democratic trait. I chose these topics long after deciding that all of the button pairs would be identically labeled, otherwise I might have labeled the buttons differently. But once again, the results are less important than presenting a situation that makes people think.


Causes of Death

Do Burners care about causes of death? Apparently so. While I already had decided to include this topic in Worthy, I absolutely needed to include it once I discovered that the Black Rock City 2014 Census uses nearly the same age ranges as the NHTSA data. Most Burners are in the age group 25–34, and, according to the table below, they are in a group that is most likely to die from Accidental Poisoning.



I had to include Mr. Trump, and for a while, Mr. Trump’s panel showed the largest tally, but voting ended with him in second place for the largest score. Checking the results, you’ll notice that many people do seem to care about him. While it could be that they agree with his positions (no, probably not), I expect that many of these votes indicate an interest in his effect on election politics.



Votes for the drone topic started the other way but had swapped after a day or two. I added this topic late. It was in a group of candidate topics like vaccination that balance the wants or desires of the individual against the wants and needs of others.


Information-Based Decisions

From results for the final topic, there appears to be concern among Burners that a “news” channel misinforms its viewers. Since burners tend Democratic, and democratic voters are more likely to consult information when making decisions, this result is expected. I included this topic partly because Jon Stewart recently retired from The Daily Show. At times Stewart mentioned the results of this survey (or a related one) in his battle against for-profit media sources that misinform the American public.


Final Observation

Early in the development of this installation I decided that it was more important to make people think than to strive for accurate results. Consequently people vote about whether they care about a topic, not about whether they agree with a statement. I was gratified when I learned that people standing at the installation were discussing their choices with each other! So I consider this whole (somewhat costly and complicated) endeavor to have been a success!