Q&A: Karl Kane

Karl Kane is passionate about young people voting.

He’s the Project Leader of the Design+Democracy Project, a research unit at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts which uses technology and design to help build a vibrant, better informed democracy.

On the Fence is the Design+Democracy Project’s award-winning online voting tool. Designed for young, undecided and first-time voters, it’s a game-like questionnaire that helps them see how their values align with the various political parties. It’s been relaunched for the 2020 General Election with a te reo Māori option.

This year the project as also launched Cannabis Convo, a tool to help voters work out where they stand before New Zealand’s 2020 Cannabis Referendum.

Karl tells us why he loves his job, why he wants another bathroom, and why you’ve got to let the dirt dry.

Describe your favourite Wellington memory.
Getting engaged at Rita a year ago. Lovely people, lovely kai, and hearing the answer “yes” from my favourite person. 

Where do you work and what do you like about it?
I practise and teach at Massey’s School of Design, and I genuinely love working with the young people who will go on to quite literally shape our experience of the world. The talented rangatahi I am lucky to work alongside have such a rad ethos – they’re kind, creative, critical, collaborative, deliberative, and evidence-based thinkers, who sign up for a really challenging four years of study. I think this is why I’m so passionate about young people voting. The kids are better than okay! When I focus on the students, and not the politics of academic life, it is the best job in the world. 

What’s the best local purchase you’ve made this year?
A wee extension to our Tarikākā railway cottage, which will give our blended whānau room to live together happily. I love the kids, but a second bathroom may prevent an actual war.

What is home for you?
Tūrangawaewae is a concept that rings wholly true to me. My family’s place to stand. And a place for my boy’s Hot Wheels tracks.

What’s your favourite place in the wider Wellington region and why?
I love our city’s well designed, open public spaces. It is brave to leave a space “empty”, and invest in activating it. But they are the spaces we all love in the city. I’ll pick Waitangi Park. Its use changes with the time of day, year and even the weather, and it’s a space that brings a truly reflective cross-section of our community together. Markets, exhibitions, sporting events, picnics, bike rides or wanders – a proper civic space and a kind of ātea to the city. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Let the dirt dry, and you’ll be able to just dust it off. Go at it now, and you’ll just smear mud everywhere.” As a bit of a hot-head I’m still working on it, but that is bloody good advice. Wait. Just wait. Don’t hit send just yet.

Who’s the most important person in your life and why?
My son. I just can’t buy into the nihilism of this wonky moment in history when my boy is about.

Read more Q&As here.


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