I was out helping a friend shop for shoes the other day, and, as I often do when facing a moment of boredom, checked in on my phone with Foursquare and took a picture of where I was. Not of people, of course, because that would be creepy, but of a colorful display of heels.
But then I got to thinking about that. I’m odd – that is strange, because I try to post a picture most of the time I check in somewhere. Over time I’ve accumulated a kind of history of my life, but a very corporate-consumer kind of one, as stores and restaurants are the places that are most easily checked in to. In a sense it’s a very different kind of photo history than those we more purposefully curate – as opposed to taking pictures of friends and family or events for instance.
BUT – what if we all did this, all of the time? Not only would we be able to look back and know something about store layouts, aesthetic and product trends at a given moment in our past, but with enough people taking pictures and attaching them to metadata (location, time, date, store) automatically we’d have a kind of social history that would be much more owned by the public than a given specific company (save for maybe Foursquare, but the photos are also stored on our personal devices, at least for now, until Apple finds a way to lock that out too). Clearly we could all be just taking pictures of the world around us all of the time, but Foursquare is a way to provide incentive and encourage it.
SO – I think the next logical step would be to see if you could build off of the FourSquare API to sort, archive and store all of these photos in a format that would help them to tell stories. Not unlike when you see pictures people have taken attached to Google Maps, but with a lot more of them for any given specific place – you can imagine Starbucks in May 2010, November 2010, January 2011, and so on, with different angles and emphasis. You could then page up Starbucks and see a visual history of it in an instant. Neat! Crowd-sourcing! Useful? Maybe not. But the kind of thing us information scientists who think about social behaviors might dig.