What People Are Saying About Boston on the ‘SketchFactor’ App
Stereotypes, while ignorant and shortsighted, are unfortunately unavoidable at times.
That much is evident from how people are accessing a new app recently released by two New York residents that lets users measure and rate cities and neighborhoods by their apparent “sketchiness.” That is, in simpler terms, how bizarre and unsafe they’re perceived to be based on somewhat-unsubstantiated personal experiences.
Using color-coded faces and anonymous messages, “SketchFactor,” which has already been dubbed by some publications as “racist,” and called an app “designed to help the privileged avoid the poor,” crowd sources information from the public so people can pick the best walking routes through distinct parts of a given city, or recommend must-see (or must run from) destination points for first-time visitors.
Using a scaled rating system, the questionable geo-tagged technology also lets users write Yelp-like reviews about what they witness in a specific region, so others can be forewarned before venturing out. Those reading reviews can pinch their smartphone screen to zoom in on a pinpointed location and see just how “sketchy” a place really is, and then circumvent it if need be.
The founders seem to be more than aware of the accusations about what their app could lead to in terms of racial profiling and stereotypes, but they insist that wasn’t their intention during development. “It’s no secret. We’ve seen the negative press,” they said in a statement Tuesday. “Setting the record straight: SketchFactor is a tool for anyone, anywhere, at any time. We have a reporting mechanism for racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it. When people actually download the app, they see that this is truly a tool for everyone.”
Curious about what people are saying here in our own backyard, Boston downloaded the app this week and tapped into SketchFactor amid controversy since its iTunes store debut. We then rounded up a snapshot of some of the “sketchiness” ratings and personal declarations added by users.
Here’s how some people are describing parts of Boston through the use of the app:
Near a Whole Foods in Brighton