I was recently in the West 4th Street subway station where the garbage cans were overflowing. I mean, ridiculously overflowing to the point where people were spreading trash all over the platform just by walking by. Mothers were making sure their kids avoided the mess by walking way too close to the the edge around the circumference of the cans. And this was 11 AM in the morning. A whole day of densely populated trash dumping would probably go by before this disaster were cleaned up. Not to mention how many pests were feasting in the summer heat!
This experience made me wonder if there was a way to use The Extraordinaries in my city.
A short summary of the Extraordinaries can be found in an earlier thought starter post about The Extraordinaries and it’s possible uses for Financial Literacy. Here are some screen shots of the Be Extra! iPhone app:
When I tried out the Be Extra! iPhone app, I found that most of the tasks were related to tagging photos for museums or the Library of Congress (the one I choose was for the Brooklyn Museum) or tasks like Kaboom!, where you can help create a database of safe places for children to play. Both of these are useful but I was searching for a more meaty Extraordinaries “mission.”
There were two tasks in the iPhone app that caught my eye in relation to the trash mesh I had experienced in the NYC subway: Voice of San Diego, where citizens can report water waste in San Diego and Heal the Bay, where citizens can report polluted water in So Cal. This was closer to what I was looking for…
The Extraordinaries Microvolunteering as a A Crowdsourced Community Watch Dog Group for New York
As I played around with the app more, I got to thinking: “Couldn’t I use my iPhone app to take pictures around the city of unsafe conditions (such as the overflowing trash can problem) so that New York City (or other cities) could rapidly respond to citizen’s concerns?” In New York, a city with so many iPhones, this has the potential to work well until they develop an app for other devices.
Nowadays, New Yorkers may call 311 to report noise complaints or something going on in their neighborhood. The Extraordinaries could be an efficient way to deal with the deluge of complaints and suggestions and lower the strain on 311 phone operators. Link Be Extra! posts to the 311 logging system and voila! you manage the c11’s focus on accountability for every reported 311 issue. I see a potential 311 partnership in the making… I will suggest that in my meeting with them next week.
A final thought: would this be considered slacktivism? Personally I think it would constitute good citizenship.