Peach: social media meets sensor journalism

looping photobooth

Peach includes a feature called the ‘looping photobooth’

Will Peach be to 2016 what Meerkat was to 2015? This app fascinates me, but I have very mixed emotions.

Why? Well, this is a new social network which cherry-picks bits of functionality from Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr and Slack, then adds some Storify-esque built-in media search tools and a bit of text-as-images functionality and its own ‘looping photobooth’.

But it’s the sensor-driven elements which fascinate me.

Visualising your life

Last year I played with the Reporter app from Nicholas Feltron. Feltron is best known for ‘lifelogging‘: recording data on his everyday activities.

feltron report relationships

A spread from one of Feltron’s annual reports. Image by Joe di Stefano

He collected the results in 10 beautifully designed annual reports from 2005 onwards. Notably, the final report in 2014 says:

“[W]hile previous editions have relied on custom solutions to gather ethereal personal data, this edition is based entirely on commercially available applications and devices. Using an array of products and software, the author’s car, computer, location, environment, media consumption, sleep, activity and physiology were instrumented and logged.”

Reporter was one of those apps. Its key difference from predecessor Daytum was the way that it used the phone’s built-in sensors to collect data without any action being required by the user: how far you had moved each day; your location; temperature; even the level of background noise.

You wouldn’t see those in the app itself, but all could be downloaded in a CSV file to your computer.

Lifelogging as emojis

By typing ‘here’ or ‘battery’ or ‘weather’ or ‘move’ or ‘events’ you allow Peach to share your location and local weather, battery power, movement, or calendar entries.

And while Feltron visualised his data using charts and typography. Peach keeps it simple with emojis.

peach app weather temp

Peach is by no means the first tool to collect this data; but it does strike me as the first to use it as a ‘feature’ in a mass market social network.

It also strikes me as the next stage in the normalisation of changing privacy expectations. Just as Facebook made it ‘normal’ to share private information with wider groups of people and corporations.

And this change takes place outside the web. The app is a walled garden. Data shared on the app is Peach’s “business asset”.

As Dave Carroll writes:

“Peach is a proprietary platform in every way, perhaps more than anything we’ve seen to date in the evolution of social media apps. It diverts our attention away from the Open Web and into a privately-owned walled-garden. It may be fun and playful with clever magic words that induce you to share more meta data.

“We’ll pay for their service with our data contributions that will capture valuable stories about our lives, interests, and behaviors that can be sold to unknown parties for unknown future purposes, despite what their privacy policy claims.”

Peach is comparatively explicit about the data it collects. Remember how much meta data Angry Birds and others collect?

The creative possibilities of GIFs on tap, sketches and BIG WORDS ON BLOCK COLOUR are alluring. This is why I have mixed feelings.

But perhaps I should also have faith that communication isn’t about the range of options available, but rather how we communicate when there are limitations.

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