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I first became aware of Itizen last summer when my brother, Andy, handed me what looked liked a funky book of postage stamps. He explained that Itizen, the brainchild of one of his former co-workers at Minneapolis-based Little & Co., and her business partner, is a new social network that proposes a bold idea: to build a bustling, dynamic community by bridging the digital world and the analog world. Itizen users put Itizen TRACKit Tags on items they might gift or share, like books, clothing, or antiques. Each tag has a unique 5-character code and a QR code that is used to access digital notes with a smartphone or on a desktop. Users can check-in to an object and add their own digital message that can include text, photo, video, and/or audio notes for others to access. Notes are saved to users’ accounts and travel with the object no matter where it goes. All users connected to the object receive updates on the object as others check-in to the object and leave additional notes.
Itizen founders Dori Graff and Mary Fallon, along with tech guru Andrew Norell, have built upon their professional experience in the Twin Cities design and interactive community to develop this fresh offering in the crowded social media marketplace. Thus far, the team has raised more than $100,000 in seed funding and is in the process of upgrading the functionality of Itizen, and seeking additional funding.
Dori Graff expanded on the Itizen story in this recent email exchange:
Merge: Tell me about the inspiration for Itizen? It seems to draw equally from emerging online social media trends as well as more analog activities, like scrapbooking and collecting.
DG: The inspiration for Itizen came when Mary and I recognized how we were increasingly sharing the things that we own with friends and family—children’s toys and gear were commonly shared, but also clothing, tools, and things for entertaining. This became a very social activity for us, and provided a touch point with the people in our community. As these things got passed around, their value became less about their intended utility and more about the people connected to them and our shared experiences. With Itizen, we are able to capture these connections and bring these experiences online.