Many people settle in cities because they want a higher degree of freedom and anonymity they won’t find in a village on the country side. However, social interaction and participation have become the holy grail for urban designers. Anti-social network Cloak wants to give urbanites the opportunity to not bump into people they don’t want to meet.
We all know that awkward moment: you’re waiting for your train while some co-worker suddenly pops up on the platform, and the both of you feel obliged to spend the two-hour train ride together, interacting. The makers of Cloak want their app to provide an incognito mode for real life, so you won’t get stuck in such exhausting situations any more.
By scraping Instagram and Foursquare to let you know where all your friends, ‘friends’, and non-friends are at all times, the app makes sure that you never have to run into that special someone — “exes, co-workers, that guy who likes to stop and chat” — if you don’t want to. “Think of it as the anti-social network”, say the app makers. Cloak presents you with a map stocked with people you follow on location-based networks, so you can see where they hang out. Users receive an alert as soon as people you follow are in the neighborhood.
Cloak is a refreshing initiative in the light of the ideas that are currently dominating the city-making discourse. The strong devotion of city-makers to fostering social interaction in public space has already led to hilarious experiments, such as designated ‘Greeting Zones’ in deprived urban areas in Amsterdam. Moreover, the app provides an interesting critique on how most people take for granted that social networks like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Foursquare let us be connected and traceable 24 hours a day.