Wednesday, October 12, 2011

App review: Do you Unlike Paris?

I was contacted recently by the Unlike city guides team who informed me that they were about to release a series of videos by various Paris movers and shakers, presenting their favourite parts of the city, to accompany their standard Paris guide. It sounded interesting so I thought I’d take a closer look.

The application (and associated website) are nicely designed and easy to use. Most of the chosen spots, covering the standard food, bar, hotel, shop and culture sectors, are well described and clearly presented, but I’m not entirely sure what this guide is supposed to be unlike.

I guess its USP must be the additional packaging of the videos, offering insider tips on the city. It’s a smart idea, but the result is strangely limited. The mini-films are a little hyperactive and overtly ‘cool’, and are based only on consuming (generally food and clothes). It is not a Paris that most of its residents will recognise, but it is perhaps the kind of city that visitors want to discover.

The five videos, supposedly covering different themes, are almost completely interchangeable, and the presenters – graphic designers, clothes designers and event designers (notice a theme here) - surely all move in the same circles. Bizarrely, they all seem to live in the same part of Paris too, so only establishments based between Barb├Ęs and Bastille are featured. The contrast with the London videos - where there seems to be a nice multicultural mix - is quite striking, but is this also a reflection of differences in the two cities? Surely not.

Another thing to note is the fact that both the site and the videos heavily promote Samsung products (they seem to be almost an extension of the Korean brand), but then I suppose it’s the price we pay for expecting our apps to be free.

Indeed, other parts of the Unlike service also seem to be dictated by corporate hands. The Avant/Garde diaries, an appealing idea (to document avant-garde aspects of cities through the eyes of respected artists, musicians and other noteworthy innovators) - and one that produces genuinely interesting videos - is a Mercedes project (although to be fair, the company’s hand here is almost entirely invisible).

Is Unlike the future of city guides? The internet generation wants everything for nothing, so it is possible that we will all soon be planning our trips abroad using lifestyle apps that are paid for by large corporations. I would in no way conclude that Unlike have sold their editorial freedom, but the smooth, consumerist vision of the city that such companies demand can sometimes be a little sinister.

More info
Currently (and unsurprisingly), the app is only available on Android systems, but apparently an iPhone version is 'relaunching' soon.



PS: This is not a sponsored post - I am simply interested in how Paris is represented in books, websites, and apps. If you
have a Paris related service or book you would like me to review - in a completely independent manner - drop me a line.

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