John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
“Archives + Absences” might make you never want to get a push notification again.
These eight people have all been fatally shot by police since Monday. You’d know that already if you had “Archives + Absences,” an app that sends you push notifications whenever a cop kills somebody in the U.S.
The app is minimalist. Notifications contain names but nothing about circumstances of death. There’s also a map marking each shooting, but no links to news reports, creating a vast sea of blue fatality-bubbles that’s not good for much other than morbid contemplation.
The app was made by Josh Begley, a data artist and research editor at The Intercept. Begley didn’t respond to an email asking why he made it, but he has a history of building controversial—if arguably necessary—programs. His “Dronestream” app, which logged U.S. drone strikes around the world, was removed from Apple’s App Store for having (in the words of the company) “excessively crude or objectionable content.”
As of the day of this writing, “Archives + Absences” is still available.
The scant user feedback on iTunes is either one- or five-star reviews. “Every single US citizen should have this app,” writes one person. “Good on you Josh for bringing us this very much needed source of information.” Complains another: “How about an app that shows every time a cop gets killed by one of these thugs?” Here’s more of what people are saying on Begley’s Twitter feed:
@joshbegley How sad that this is necessary.— Timothy Post (@t_post7) January 20, 2016