Collectively, iPhone users could be considered the basis of a crowdsourced early warning system that could steer us away from trouble, much the way those red lines on Apple Maps tell us of nearby traffic congestion. Is it an early warning app? Or, digital racism?
Behind Door #1, Monte
Perspective is anything but a fool’s game. One man’s meat is another man’s hamburger. One woman’s lemon is another’s lemonade.
Enter the iPhone app SketchFactor which puts a new twist on crowdsourced information. Big Brother isn’t watching. We’re becoming Big Brother because we watch.
This isn’t so much a review of SketchFactor as the app is free, but only works well when there are plenty of other users nearby.
SketchFactor, simply put, shows the “relative sketchiness” of a neighborhood, based upon information from other users in or near the neighborhood.
It’s as if your nearby Neighborhood Watch group got mashed up with Waze. If you’re in a sketchy neighborhood, report it on SketchFactor, ostensibly to warn others away from the area.
The ramifications are interesting. First, it’s somewhat anonymous, so most other SketchFactor users won’t know who is warning them about a neighborhood or area.
Racial overtones are strong, but only because we allow them to surface to the top. Is SketchFactor an app that warns white folks which black or hispanic neighborhoods to avoid? Or, is the app a good way to help you navigate through an unknown area with the least amount of, uh, um, involvement with the local population?
What is a sketchy neighborhood to one iPhone user might not be so for another, yet the idea of crowdsourcing useful information, anonymously, has plenty of merit. Just ask Waze users.
The blackface logo used by SketchFactor doesn’t help the situation, though. Why not add a twist to the obvious objective? Instead of simply reporting “sketchy” neighborhoods, why not work both sides of the issue– good and worthy locations nearby, vs. those on the other side of the tracks, so to speak.