The new website styleblaster.net lets you rank Williamsburg's most stylish, but is it an infringement of privacy?
Yesterday the internet was abuzz with details of newly launched street style website Styleblaster. The site operates using a webcam facing Bedford Avenue, capturing pedestrians in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The camera snaps a shot of passersby and posts it for the internet to judge the person's style. If you like it, you "tip" the top hat next to the image, it replies "sweet!" and your vote is counted. It's lazy man's fashion photography filtered through the hive mind.
The project is the brainchild of Jules Laplace, a technical director at creative agency OKFocus, and his roommate, internet artist Jack Kalish. The camera points out of their apartment window. According to the website, the idea came in response to their changing neighborhood, which was once primarily artists, and is now occupied more and more by wealthier expats from Manhattan. They state:
To answer the changing times, we introduce Styleblaster, a realtime account of what people in Williamsburg are wearing. Unlike a typical street style blog, Styleblaster documents all -- the visiting fashion plates, the hipsters and have-nots, the native Polish and Italian proud who have for years called this neighborhood home. And above all -- the dapper salarymen and businesswomen who stand to inherit the area.\n
And it's true, for anyone with the illusion that Williamsburg is merely an insular enclave of trust fund artists, steam punks, artisinal cheese lovers and hipsters, this documentation will dispel those stereotypes, as we see a very diverse parade of pedestrians. At times it feels more like an anthropological study of the neighborhood than a comment on style.
It's also interesting to see the repetition of actions: people checking their cell phones, drinking coffee, eating a bagel, and naturally, carrying yoga mats. Even though there's no sign indicating you are being filmed, some people who walk by stare directly into the camera, or place a book over their faces so as not to be documented. Which raises the question of whether this kind of voyeurism should be condoned.
We already know that "big brother" is watching everywhere, all the time, with surveillance cameras attached to nearly every street corner around the country. But even so, this project feels creepier. Perhaps it's because the site unwillingly uses people as subjects to be judged. Certainly it's far less innocent than the way street style bloggers capture their subjects, by approaching people and asking to take their picture and getting their consent.
On Styleblaster, everyone is subject to scrutiny without having a say. Furthermore, there are a lot of high school kids captured on camera—who presumably have to deal with enough adolescent issues as it is—without having to worry about being inspected anonymously on the internet.
The founders insist that the site is celebratory, hoping to home in on the everyday fashion you see in the neighborhood, not just the cherry picked individuals that make it to many street style blogs. Eventually they think that "It will quickly become a destination for New York City peacocks to traipse by and show off what makes the neighborhood hop."
But for every aspiring "peacock" out there, there are plenty who aren't. What do you think? Would you mind being documented by their webcam or do you feel it is a violation of privacy? Is this just a reflection of our modern internet era and should we all get used to it?
Photos courtesy of Styleblaster