On Scenicness

May 16, 2009

in Entrepreneurship,Image,Place,Senses,Thinking

I’ve been following Tom Steinberg’s great work at establishing better communications channels and feedback loops between citizens and the UK government for a while now.  You can find out more about these projects at the mySociety website.

In his latest newsletter, he featured a project that applies the HotOrNot meme (which is often judgmental, demeaning, humiliating and masochistic when rating people) to places in the UK:

“ScenicOrNot helps you to explore every corner of England, Scotland and Wales, all the while comparing your aesthetic judgements with fellow players.”

The site presents a photo, and prompts viewers to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, from not scenic to scenic.

One-dimensional assessments of anything are always dicey, but I can see many merits in this particular project:

  • It’s interesting to learn how others perceive a place. Is there anything close to general agreement about what it means to be scenic?  I rated a field of ripening barely a 7, 2.5 points above the average.
  • Many of the photos used are not of touristy locations, so it may be the first time that a particular cattle-gate has been rated or thought about in these terms.
  • Aggregating such opinions could have all sorts of uses, from finding attractive places you didn’t know about, to directing beautification efforts at blighted areas.

According to the same newsletter, mySociety is working on:

“A Really Great Secret Project that uses that scenicness data we’ve been gathering and which we think you’re going to Quite Like”

I can’t wait to see it.

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