Digital ‘Graffiti’ App Gives the Big Durian a New Look

By webadmin on 10:44 am May 05, 2012
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Lisa Siregar

Sometimes all it takes to make a place new again is a fresh perspective.

Remember the first time you arrived in Jakarta and felt that there were so many things to see? For example, the comfortably paved roads of Menteng, Central Jakarta and its heritage houses or all those pretty cafes and art galleries in Kemang, South Jakarta? But after passing through these areas countless times, you may have lost the wonderment you had before.

Harpoen, a new location-based messaging application, is designed to help you fall in love with the city all over again. The Jakarta start-up aims to leave a virtual trail of photos, sketches, song lyrics, poems and comments all around the city, to make familiar places feel new again.

The idea works just like graffiti, except instead of leaving spray-painted tags on walls, users leave “Harps,” or virtual tags, anchored to a certain location. Harps appear as purple dots on the Harpoen radar, where other users can tap on the dots to view the Harp and leave a comment. Comments are an important element of a Harp’s existence — when there are no new comments, a Harp will slowly disappear from the radar.

The app for iOS devices was developed by two Indonesians, Yudha Kartohadiprodjo and Agatha Simanjuntak-Ellis, and two foreigners, John Patrick Ellis and Ty Kroll, both of whom have lived in Indonesia for about a decade.

“It’s great because you can make your own city tour,” said Yudha, who is in charge of marketing.

“I was passing through Kuningan by car when I found that somebody had left their poem along the way,” he added. “Every few meters, there was a new part of the poem, all along a Kuningan road.”

After downloading the app for free, users can sign in through their Facebook or Twitter account. After a smooth registration process, new users can begin to leave Harps wherever they go.

There are options for how long a Harp will remain in a certain place, and which Harps are viewed by either friends or anonymous users.

Any user can change their name to “Anonymous” when leaving a Harp.

Leaving trails is a part of human nature, Ellis said. Since ancient times, humans have felt compelled to leave their mark on a landscape. Couples like to carve their names in trees as a declaration of love. Graffiti artists see a clean wall as a huge canvas, waiting to be painted.

Five weeks after the soft launch, Ellis said the app had already been accessed more than 23,000 times.

The founders are now working on ways to make interaction easier in preparation for the app’s official launch in June.