Whether we’d like to admit it, racism is still alive and well. Whether it is coerced through an innocent joke, uncomfortable feelings around another race, or avoiding a certain area of town, racism is there — even if it is unintentional. A new phone application, SketchFactor, is taking racism to a new level by allowing its users to identify the “sketchy” sides of town and altering their route to avoid the bad areas, which are often identified by the number of minorities within.
According to co-founder of SketchFactor, Allison McQuire, her and her partner Daniel Herrington do not mean for the app to be racist.
“Wouldn’t it be useful to understand where stop and frisks are actually happening? My mission in life […] is to give a voice to the voiceless. [SketchFactor] gives a voice to anyone with a smartphone.
“Even though Dan and I are admittedly both young, white people, the app is not built for us as young, white people, but let’s turn it on its head. This can really shed light on some interesting things happening in cities all over the U.S.”
The SketchFactor app uses a rating system similar to Yelp and relies on user interaction to determine where the “sketchy” areas are. This allows the user to find an alternate path to avoid the areas.
According the picture above, New York, in general, is sketchy and should be avoided. The sketch factor of an area can be determined by how dangerous it is perceived to be, the saturation of drug use, or places that simply make the individual feel uncomfortable. Each of these classifications can be incorporated with stereotypes of various ethnic and racial neighborhoods, which can influence the way the area is perceived within the app. This loops us back to the unintentional racism element that SketchFactor may inevitably default to in its identifying mechanisms.
Emily Levy, of Voactive, explains the app’s ability to constantly adapt to input, in a straight forward manner.
“By design, the app allows users to vote on the credibility of crowdsourced encounters, meaning users can collectively decide whether a neighborhood is worth its creepy rating. And hopefully that means in the future entire patches of the city won’t be plagued by red markers of sketch. Until then, we’ll find out when SketchFactor says it’s OK to go outside.”
[Photo Courtesy: New York Daily News]