Apps That Make You Make Stuff:
The Pocket Scavenger and More

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With all the talk about mobile devices beginning to eclipse computers, there’s still not as much talk of creating for the sake of creation on mobile devices. We take photos and videos, and even tweak them with apps like Instagram, but how much creativity are we really talking about here? The application of a hazy filter? 

Nor is there very much available to us in the way of interactivity with our social media creations aside from liking, repinning, or commenting. Many apps have tested the waters of creativity and environmental interaction via social media, but few have stuck around. 

This week, publisher Penguin launched The Pocket Scavenger, an app that attempts to bridge the divide between our mobile devices, our muses, and objects directly in front of us. Dozens of brief instruction projects (“scavenges”) ask us to document and remix the mundane we encounter throughout the day, write or record a brief story about them, and then share them via Twitter and a map viewable by other scavengers.

So far, the social elements are minimal—my map displayed only two other scavengers across the U.S. But the activities suggested—while certainly contrived—have the potential for amusement, and didn’t make me feel that I wasn’t up to enough excitement in my daily life. For instance, it wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with “something with a hole in it,” “a stain that is green, “a piece of red string, or “a used envelope.” See here my “postage stamps” and my “thing that is orange.”

But Keri Smith, the author behind the book behind the app—and who also wrote the popular “Wreck This Journal” (a similar activity book for inspiring everyday creativity)—is onto something that other app-makers have been trying to get at for a long time: the element of serendipity and spontaneity in our social media experiences. Who else has been *here* and what did they see? That’s one of the reasons geocaching has endured as a pastime for nature buffs. Using technology, along with layers of time and space, provides an exciting app platform.

Several years ago, an app called SCVNGR got buzz by providing suggested small activities at certain locations. At first it offered discounts and prizes for real world goods based on completed tasks (something like FourSquare), but no longer. 

Now, there’s an “augmented reality” app called CacheTown that does something similar—but participating locations are overlaid on a street-view style map. Here’s a video of what it looks like to participate:

But CacheTown moves away from the creative aspect of mixing real life with social media. To that end, there’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned photo scavenger hunt. But its tough to find a captive group of people eager to take photos as part of a competition. 

Martha Stewart discovered one such crowd: wedding guests. Martha Stewart Weddings offers a free PDF download for brides and grooms who want to give their inebriated friends and family members something to do while waiting around for cake—an iSpy photo scavenger hunt game.

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(Images: The Pocket Scavenger, Martha Stewart Weddings)

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Main, Tech, Mobile Apps

As a child, Rachel Rosmarin pretended to be Penny Gadget (niece of Inspector) and toted around an imaginary book-shaped computer and connected wristwatch. When she grew up, she became a technology journalist.

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