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Kennedy App

Log your life as it happens with designer Brendan Dawes' "camera for context"

by Nara Shin
on 28 January 2014

Journaling is a common New Year's resolution that always seems to creep its way back onto the list year after year—yet it doesn't have to. Thanks to a tip from Netted, we came across Kennedy, an iPhone app that archives the moments you want to remember with a single tap. Aptly named (albeit somewhat morbidly) after a question asked throughout history: "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?"

The designer behind the project, UK-based Brendan Dawes, explores "the interaction of objects, people, technology and art" that join analog and digital realms—from projects like Digital City Portraits to the Happiness Machine, an internet-connected device that prints happy thoughts from people at random. He's also behind apps such as the stripped-down weather app Now Next Later and The Accidental News Explorer, a hybrid between a newspaper, StumbleUpon and Wikipedia.

Evoking the minimalism of his previous apps, Dawes has designed the attractive interface to be engaging yet clean, stripping it of what he feels are unnecessary features, like social media sharing buttons. Capturing a moment is simple: tapping the circle titled "Now" automatically records the time, the local weather, the date, your location, a current news headlines from the web (of your choosing), and even the music that's playing on your phone. The entry is completed by adding or taking a photo, along with a note. It can take less than a minute to log an entry—which means more time with your phone in your pocket than in your hand, allowing more time to enjoy the moment.

kennedy-app-4.jpg kennedy-app-1.jpg

Surprisingly, Kennedy started out as a physical prototype. "I built a physical button about a year ago. I could press a button and it would gather data, then post it onto my experimental Twitter stream," explains Dawes. It was developed into an installation in a gallery in Cincinnati, before being worked into an iPhone version. In contrast with many developers, Dawes doesn't build apps just to increase productivity or simplify our lives. Instead Kennedy (like Dawes' other projects) is an experiment that challenges the way we interact with and interpret data. Which is why Kennedy exports its data as JSON or CSV files to encourage users to create their own unique data visualizations—even 3D-printed models.

"I’ve always been fascinated with how the events in our lives run parallel with other events happening elsewhere in the world, events that help give context to our memories, be that what the weather was like, what music I was listening to or what was happening in the news," Dawes says. "For me, Kennedy acts like a camera but instead of snapping images, it snaps data. I like to think of it as a camera for context." While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it requires extra information; flipping through our Kennedy archives was much more rewarding than swiping through a camera album containing thousands of photos. "The reason it’s written like a sentence rather than just a list of data is because I strongly believe that data by itself is not enough; data needs poetry," concludes Dawes.

Kennedy App is available on iOS devices from the App Store for $2. For a similar, but more automatic approach, check out our previous review of the travel app Rove.

Images courtesy of Kennedy App

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