The Art of the Anti-Trump App
Digital activism against the Trump presidency is all the rage. From the #GrabYourWallet consumer boycott site to the Indivisible guide to resisting the Trump agenda to the Wall-of-Us action items, the impulse to use new technology against incipient authoritarianism is diverse and growing.
For Alex Limpaecher of Brooklyn, the creator of Mobilize, a new iPhone application to facilitate communication with elected officials, the desire to innovate originated in the debacle of the 2016 election.
“I made this app because a lot of what we have been doing to be politically active isn’t effective,” the 31-year-old coder said in a phone interview with AlterNet. “We thought emailing representatives, posting to social media and signing petitions worked. That turned out not to be true.”
The Mobilize app, he says, seeks to promote more effective action by enabling users to contact and talk to their representatives about the issues they care about most.
Other technologists are staking out this territory. The Countable app keeps users apprised of upcoming congressional votes. The Flippable website focuses stimulating action on state legislative races. All of them seek the digitally enhanced mode of personal engagement that makes the modern media world go round.
“You’re connecting with another human being and that emotional connection affects the other person on the line,” Limpaecher says. “The app helps people take an action that has been shown to have real political impact.”
How It Works
The Mobilize app provides the users with congressional contact numbers, a choice of issues and associated scripts to follow while making one's views known.
When I punch in my Washington D.C. Zip code, I get scripts for talking to Eleanor Holmes Norton, my (non-voting) congressional representative; for urging investigation of Jeff Sessions; opposing Steve Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council; or protesting against the ICE immigration raids. One click and the number is dialed. Another click and I can refer to the script while I’m talking with the congresswoman’s office.
By day Limpaecher is the chief data officer for a smart home company. In his free time, he works with a team of seven volunteers located in New York, Colorado and California, to perfect the user interface.
After creating an MVP (minimally viable product) version, Limpaecher and friends studied why people wouldn’t use it.
“The most challenging part is this intrinsic fear that people have of talking on the phone, especially younger people,” he said. “There’s a mental block that happens here. We’re trying to understand that better.”
Mobilize is available in the App Store and has been downloaded 2,000 times. Limpaecher says he and his team want to perfect the iPhone version before they create an Android equivalent.
While the app is targeted at millennials, Limpaecher says user research shows that “a lot of people are sending this to their parents. So we might need a tweak for them too.”
Also by Jefferson Morley
Who Wins? Trump v. Koch Brothers on Jobs (March 1)
Three Hard Truths that Trump Is Facing (Feb. 28)