Mobile Apps and You

Fox News announced the release of their new app for the iPad, “You Decide 2012 Map”, in which users can make predictions on the overall outcome of the presidential election. The app does this through providing a virtual map where you can select a state and input which way you think it will end up in the electoral college. Aside from the necessary “Democrat” and “Republican” options, you can also choose “Leaning” or “Toss Up”, ultimately calculating the final presidential winner. Highlighted features advertised by the app are:

– Get expert opinions with exclusive maps created by Fox News contributors Karl Rove and Joe Trippi.
– Tweet your predictions to our experts, or share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or via Email
– Test out different scenarios to see how changes impact the election outcome.
– Save your predictions to ‘My Maps’ to track how your picks change throughout the election season.
– Compare your picks with historical maps from past presidential elections. “

The release of Fox News’ polling app is just one of many that have been promoted by other sites, such as Talking Points Memo’s “PollTracker”, msnbc’s “NBC Politics”, and Washington Post’s “WP Politics” app. These of which were only a few of the essential political mobile apps voters should have.

A common theme throughout these new apps is that they are exclusively mobile. In other words, you have to have a tablet or smart phone to be able to access these apps. There are countless possibilities for technological development for applications which makes the possibilities to revolutionize infinite…given you have some type of “smart” phone/tablet.

There’s no question that the growth of apps like these are simply to cater to the new politically inclined technocrat but does this focus on mobile apps create a greater disparity between the accessibility of an informed electorate?

Some may argue that these apps are based off of larger, more established platforms, so rather than making the accessibility more exclusive, it is just furthering it on a more real-time premise.

This may be true with mobile apps focused on up to date political news which makes sense for any political junkie to download. On this level, the accessibility question boils down to the commitment of the person to be informed; a simple question of whether or not someone subscribes to get the newspaper or not.

But in terms of political polling apps and even the larger discussion of branching apps out to such things as voter registration or even voting on your phone, the new technology become much more murkier on a democratic and even ethical scale. The implications of apps such as these are dangerous in that it subjects a certain pool of people, those who are not in the economic or informed position for a smart phone, to unequal accessibility to the voting process.

So in terms of political apps, they are best left for information and virtual amusement.