The Codecheck project is an effort to create an informed “community” of consumers who are able to critically assess products prior to reaching their purchasing decisions. Whereas certain initiatives pursue this aim primarily by condemning retail offerings that are potential health hazards, Codecheck takes a different approach: it helps consumers decipher the product’s barcode. The way this works is as simple as can be. A potential buyer uses his/her PC to enter the product’s numerical code and sends it via Internet to codecheck.ch; what immediately comes back are comprehensive definitions and information from experts about ingredients like sodium laurent sulfate and E250. The result is the creation of a reference work that is constantly being expanded and updated with contributions from manufacturers, wholesale distributors, specialized labs, consumer organizations and individual consumers. Potential purchasers thus have access to a wide variety of information, opinions and reports, a body of knowledge that constitutes a solid basis on which to form an opinion about a particular product.
Plans are currently in the works to enhance this system by building in mobility. For example, a shopper in a supermarket could use his/her cell phone’s camera to photograph a product’s barcode and then send this image as an MMS to codecheck.ch, and the relevant information would immediately be transmitted back. By linking up diverse technologies (photography, Internet, telecommunications) in this way, Codecheck represents a step in the direction of well-informed consumers.
Why do I blog this? I am less interested in this as a way to better inform consumers than by the usage it creates: "checking objects". This participates in this kind of interaction people have more and more in places: pointing a device to a certain objects: first it was to take pictures (lots of pictures: moblogging, picture that goes right into flickr from the cell phone), now it's codechecking (not really pointing though...), what's next: touching object to do the codecheck: the "wand" metaphor is more and more relevant.