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Referendum By Facebook: Finns "Like" or "Dislike" Guggenheim Helsinki

Touchscreen kiosks located around Helsinki are giving the public a chance to weigh in on whether opening a new Guggenheim museum is the right idea.

One of the quickest ways to see whether an idea has legs or not is to float it on Facebook and see how many people click the Like button. It’s a concept so simple, it just might be destined for use in large-scale civic issues offline.

A project that would import a branch of the Guggenheim museum in Finland has been the subject of debate ever since the estimated $184M proposal was announced last year. Now the public has a chance to weigh in via interactive touchscreens situated in two public transportation hubs around Helsinki. Unlike Facebook, however, these kiosks also have a Dislike button, giving the opposition a fighting chance to be heard.

The voting stations were dreamed up by agency HeyDay (which has a history of making innovative use of touchscreens), along with outdoor ad company JCDecaux Finland. Commuters can click away to their heart’s content, with a one second delay to ensure they don’t get too carried away. All the votes will be counted at the end of the week and the results—well, they won’t be binding but they’ll be publicized and sure to be used as a battering ram by the "winning" side.

Opposition to the campaign appears to stem from the huge initial cost of the project as well as the annual $19M cost it would take to keep the museum running. With the Finnish economy still settling after the recent recession, sensible Finnish taxpayers are balking at making such a large investment.

After one day of being open, says HeyDay’s Olli Paloheimo, the dislikes are about 35% higher than the likes, with about 4,500 dislikes already. "We actually send a trainee to do a field study about the people using the ad," says Paloheimo. "The weird thing that we noticed from the quick study was that very many elderly people were using the ad to cast their vote. Seems like older people are getting a grip of technology quite well.

Helsinki has until the end of April to announce a final decision on the project.

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