Transparency is a tool designed for citizens to gain insight into the inner workings of the legislative branch, promoting transparency and public awareness about congressional action. In this project the blink(1) becomes the lights illuminating the Capitol Building. Forming an interface between the public and congress, the lights indicate in real time if a bill was passed, rejected or somehow deferred, by changing colors. The lights will blink red if the bill was just rejected, pink if the bill was deferred, and blue if the bill was passed. By categorizing each act of congress, Transparency illuminates how the systems and processes facilitating congressional action can have unexpected and even insidious effects on what actually ends up as law. More broadly, this tool allows people to know when there are decisions being made that could affect their life without even knowing it.
Three IFTTT recipes control the lighting in Transparency. Each of the recipes uses the ‘Feed’ API as its “If” input and the ‘blink(1)’ API as its “Then” output. The color of light coming from the blink(1) can either be red, indicating a rejected bill; blue, indicating a passed bill; or pink, indicating a bill that was neither passed nor rejected (for instance: bills sent to subcommittees, deferred, or otherwise recycled internally). Each recipe, associated with one of these colors, parses the most recent update of an RSS feed from govtrack.us, which reports the status of every bill in congress following each occasion that the house or senate assembles. If a specific keyword, either “passed,” “rejected,” or neither, is found, then the recipe is triggered, causing the blink(1) to light up with the specified color. So in practice, this protocol will always cause the blink(1) to first turn pink any time the RSS feed updates, then turn blue or red if the bill in question was passed or rejected, respectively. Otherwise, the light will stay pink, representing a sort of default or baseline.