Well, the fervor for iPhone apps can’t reach any higher in the U.S. now: The White House has just launched its own app, with live content updates direct from the seat of power. But is this a democratizing move, or mere propagandizing?
The news was announced on the White House’s own blog late last night, and apparently it made staffers there “excited” that they could now deliver “dynamic content from WhiteHouse.gov to the palm of your hand.” The app has a number of content delivery systems built in–including live video streams from Presidential addresses, press briefings and so on. In particular, it seems the app has been released specifically in time for the State of the Union next week, which gives the President another broadcast system to his population in addition to the TV and radio–and it effectively turns the iPhone into a mobile TV for the duration of the address.
The app also includes direct access to the WhiteHouse.gov blog, and includes data from the briefing room, along with the recordings of recent speeches and briefings. To this end, it’s evidently an attempt to provide an open government 2.0 facility that actually delivers relevant data to the interested public, journalists, academics, and so on. The addition of “behind the scenes” footage and on-demand video is also an attempt to add in a more friendly, down-to-Earth social aspect–making it seem like app users are getting a surprisingly personal insight into the inner workings of government.
But that’s where this app, despite its benefits as a window onto White House goings-on (soon to be augmented with a mobile.WhiteHouse.gov Web site that’ll work on other smartphones), is ever so slightly questionable. Because under the guise of providing access, it smacks of a propagandizing mechanism–simply because though it provides information, it doesn’t seem to allow for “customer feedback” or even debate in the form of blog comments. That besmirches its Government 2.0 credentials pretty significantly. And before you argue that such feedback facilities would quickly descend into petty partisan name-calling, remember that if any body is capable of hiring a team of forum moderators who’d monitor the discussions, it’s the White House.