User-Generated Map & Meaning Making via Foursquare Presented by   Glen Farrelly
Sense of Place
Foursquare
User-generated Content
Method
Contextual Inquiry
Findings
Foursquare User Types The Curious Wants to see what’s going on  The Narcissist Publishes vanity information The Gamer Stri...
Citizen Cartographers
Geography as Statement
What’s on the Map? <ul><ul><li>Communal events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>C...
Layers of Meaning
Conclusion
Further Information <ul><ul><li>Elwood, S. (2006). Critical Issues in participatory GIS: Deconstructions, reconstructions,...
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User-Generated Map and Meaning Making via Foursquare

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Due to prior technical barriers, it was difficult for citizens to make and distribute their own maps and geographic information. The mobile application Foursquare , however, is giving citizens the power to define, annotate, and discover their own spaces.

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  • SLIDE 1
    Foursquare’s motto is to “unlock your city”. For once marketing hyperbole is correct, as I believe Foursquare is giving citizens new power to define, annotate, and discover their own spaces. The fields of cartography and geographic information systems, I would argue, have been dominated by professional elites and commercial interest. Due to prior technical barriers, it was difficult for citizens to make and distribute their own maps. In this context, I’m referring to maps and geographic systems in the human geographic sense. Our world is full of layers of human geographic data, yet there hasn’t been ways to feasibly share this. Yet the congruence of technology, business, and user behaviour that Foursquare facilitates has opened the doors to user-generated map and meaning making.

    My research examined how are people using Foursquare and how it affects our relationship to place.
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  • SLIDE 2

    Most places are rich with meaning, much of it we will never know. The layers of meaning can include the social, historical, political, and personal.

    I’ll give an example. The A on this map refers to 1 Toronto Street, Toronto. It’s easy to miss Toronto Street, but it used to a main street. Visiting it today, you’d see a generic office tower. You wouldn’t know that this is where I used to work, that it has amazing paninis, that it’s across the street from where Conrad Black destroyed evidence, or that it used to be where people were publicly executed.

    Some of this information may or may not be useful or interesting to you. But until recently you would not have been able to tap into that diversity of information instantly and on the spot. Applications such as Foursquare are providing an information sharing platform – and enabling citizens to decide what to populate it with.
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  • SLIDE 3
    Before looking at some of the specifics of my research, I should explain Foursquare. It is a downloadable application that runs on most smartphones and has a companion website.
    The application combines social networking with a never-ending gaming. Users are encouraged to add friends to their network and then regularly share their location (called a “check-in”) and associated comments. Users compete for honours and possible financial incentives from participating businesses through multiple check-ins. Users can add locations & defining details to the Foursquare database. By providing an address or intersection, Foursquare then automatically georeferences this data. Using GPS, uses can then receive information from the application based on their proximity.. Information returned to users is thus based on the geographic relevance rather than keyword or category as other systems use. Business can also pay to offer special deals appears essentially as an advertisement to users based on their proximity to the business.

    There are competing geolocation applications - predominantly, Facebook Places and Gowalla – but Foursquare is the leader with 6 million users. A recent Pew survey indicated that 4% of online Americans use such a location-based service. This seems small, but it is believed that this market will grow as smartphones continues their widespread adoption.

    Here you can see 3 shots of the application, on the left the application as it looks on a Blackberry. A users can search by name or proximity for a location and then “check in” to it. The middle picture is from an iPod Touch device and show the social networking capabilities. After signing in, users see the recent checkins of their friends. The picture on the right shows users tips for a specific location – the eggs at Court Jester were apparently quite delish.
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  • SLIDE 4
    This screenshot shows our current location. You can see that Andrea D. has taken the mayor title away from me. This pictures demonstrate the citizen involvement required for this application. When Foursquare was initially available in Toronto early last year, all locations had to be manually entered by users. The mapping interface is provided by Google’s API, but all other data came from users. Users provide the address and contact info, categorize the type of location from a preset list, tag it however they wish, and can add tips (as demonstrated by my rather prosaic tip).

    There are precedents to this type of citizen behaviour from people tying paper notes to trees or GPS systems that allowed people to annotate geographic coordinates. Even Foursquare’s founder created a previous application called Dodgeball that used text-messaging (SMS) for this. The phenomenon is not necessarily new, but I do believe it is hitting a likely new level of a critical mass and widespread adoption.
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  • SLIDE 5
    To understand the usage of Foursquare I conducted a multifaceted ethnography last summer. This included:
    Five email and two in-person semi-structured interviews
    Remote observation for one month focused on six users, ten various venues, and general usage
    Autoethnography – recording my own initial usage through my blog
    Visual analysis of the mobile application and website
    Media monitoring of Foursquare news and blog coverage
    Contextual inquiry – one session

    Although Foursquare has privacy settings, many users choose to make their data public (as seen here from Foursquare’s homepage). This provides a rich source of data for researchers. In addition, I recruited participants via social media and snowballing to allow me to gain more insight on user behaviour.

    My hometown of Toronto, Canada and was selected as the predominant focus of study both for convenience and as Foursquare appeared to have achieved a critical mass of usage there. Participants from additional locales across North America were also sought to expand the reach of the study.
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  • Good morning. I’m Glen Farrelly a PhD student here at iSchool. Thank you for letting me present today on my research with the mobile geo-social application Foursquare and its user base. Foursquare’s motto is to “unlock your city”. For once marketing hyperbole is correct, as I believe Foursquare is giving citizens new power to define, annotate, and discover their own spaces. The fields of cartography and geographic information systems, I would argue, have been dominated by professional elites and commercial interest. Due to prior technical barriers, it was difficult for citizens to make and distribute their own maps. In this context, I’m referring to maps and geographic systems in the human geographic sense. Our world is full of layers of human geographic data, yet there hasn’t been ways to feasibly share this. Yet the congruence of technology, business, and user behaviour that Foursquare facilitates has opened the doors to user-generated map and meaning making. My research examined how are people using Foursquare and how it affects our relationship to place.
  • Most places are rich with meaning, much of it we will never know. The layers of meaning can include the social, historical, political, and personal. I’ll give an example. The A on this map refers to 1 Toronto Street, Toronto. It’s easy to miss Toronto Street, but it used to a main street. Visiting it today, you’d see a generic office tower. You wouldn’t know that this is where I used to work, that it has amazing paninis, that it’s across the street from where Conrad Black destroyed evidence, or that it used to be where people were publicly executed. Some of this information may or may not be useful or interesting to you. But until recently you would not have been able to tap into that diversity of information instantly and on the spot. Applications such as Foursquare are providing an information sharing platform – and enabling citizens to decide what to populate it with.
  • Before looking at some of the specifics of my research, I should explain Foursquare. It is a downloadable application that runs on most smartphones and has a companion website. The application combines social networking with a never-ending gaming. Users are encouraged to add friends to their network and then regularly share their location (called a “check-in”) and associated comments. Users compete for honours and possible financial incentives from participating businesses through multiple check-ins. Users can add locations &amp; defining details to the Foursquare database. By providing an address or intersection, Foursquare then automatically georeferences this data. Using GPS, uses can then receive information from the application based on their proximity.. Information returned to users is thus based on the geographic relevance rather than keyword or category as other systems use. Business can also pay to offer special deals appears essentially as an advertisement to users based on their proximity to the business. There are competing geolocation applications - predominantly, Facebook Places and Gowalla – but Foursquare is the leader with 6 million users. A recent Pew survey indicated that 4% of online Americans use such a location-based service. This seems small, but it is believed that this market will grow as smartphones continues their widespread adoption. Here you can see 3 shots of the application, on the left the application as it looks on a Blackberry. A users can search by name or proximity for a location and then “check in” to it. The middle picture is from an iPod Touch device and show the social networking capabilities. After signing in, users see the recent checkins of their friends. The picture on the right shows users tips for a specific location – the eggs at Court Jester were apparently quite delish.
  • This screenshot shows our current location. You can see that Andrea D. has taken the mayor title away from me. This pictures demonstrate the citizen involvement required for this application. When Foursquare was initially available in Toronto early last year, all locations had to be manually entered by users. The mapping interface is provided by Google’s API, but all other data came from users. Users provide the address and contact info, categorize the type of location from a preset list, tag it however they wish, and can add tips (as demonstrated by my rather prosaic tip). There are precedents to this type of citizen behaviour from people tying paper notes to trees or GPS systems that allowed people to annotate geographic coordinates. Even Foursquare’s founder created a previous application called Dodgeball that used text-messaging (SMS) for this. The phenomenon is not necessarily new, but I do believe it is hitting a likely new level of a critical mass and widespread adoption.
  • To understand the usage of Foursquare I conducted a multifaceted ethnography last summer. This included: Five email and two in-person semi-structured interviews Remote observation for one month focused on six users, ten various venues, and general usage Autoethnography – recording my own initial usage through my blog Visual analysis of the mobile application and website Media monitoring of Foursquare news and blog coverage Contextual inquiry – one session Although Foursquare has privacy settings, many users choose to make their data public (as seen here from Foursquare’s homepage). This provides a rich source of data for researchers. In addition, I recruited participants via social media and snowballing to allow me to gain more insight on user behaviour. My hometown of Toronto, Canada and was selected as the predominant focus of study both for convenience and as Foursquare appeared to have achieved a critical mass of usage there. Participants from additional locales across North America were also sought to expand the reach of the study.
  • A method that I found particularly useful is contextual inquiry. Contextual inquiry involves observing and probing research participants performing their own tasks in their own environments. It is not a contrived or artificial scenario. This is a picture from my contextual inquiry session. I asked the participant to arrange a meeting at a location he frequents and to bring his device. The participant then walked me through a typical usage session (this is his local Starbucks coffee shop). I observed, took notes and photographs. Unlike a pure observation, I would probe the participant about his motivations or request he follow up on something that he might not have otherwise. The methodological motivation for contextual inquiry is that a naturalistic setting and actions will result in a more honest interpretation than interviews and more directed than observation. Interviews removed from context can result in participants forgetting details, abstracting, or presenting an idealized version. Observation alone may not provide the focus that a researcher needs to address specific issues. Contextual inquiry attempts to balance the two.
  • All collected data, such interviews transcripts, observation notes, document and visual analysis notes were coded. I designed a Microsoft Access data to enter data snippets with the corresponding codes into a database. My sensitizing concepts were related to the information field and social media – although I did want to be open to other unanticipated concepts that might emerge and prove insightful. This open coding resulted in 54 codes. A more focused coding was then conducted, as demonstrated on this slide. There were many avenues of exploration. For example privacy, identity, promotion, and social connection were raised frequently and powerfully by participants as main themes. I focused on ten main three and conducted directed reflected and analysis on these areas, in a ethnographic process called memoing.
  • This list of Foursquare the personae of various types of users arose out of one of my memos. Most users appear to be a mixture of some or all types, however. I posted a longer version of this on my blog (www.glenfarrelly.com) and this received I a fair amount of interest so I thought I’d share it. This list does reveal that the main dimensions of the application – game, social networking, business, and information seeking and sharing.
  • Map-making and geographic information systems have traditionally been a professional activity, often required specialized training and credentials. Despite efforts by geographers to solicit the feedback of the public, map-making was largely a solitary activity shaped by a sole professional. These individuals were often distant in both proximity and familiarity with the locations they described. Yet once a user has created an account on Foursquare they have relatively unfettered access to plotting locations on the map and adding geographic commentary and categorizations. The efforts of citizens to demarcate and maintain geographic information is essential for Foursquare’s collective utility to be realized. Although Foursquare’s gaming, financial incentives, and social networking provide incentives to participate, we can see evidence of alternative motivations. One interviewee who had added numerous locations to his smalltown in Canada to Foursquare stated that he wanted “to enhance the experience for those who will join Foursquare and visit the locations.” There was both a sense of altruism and civic pride promoting his and others efforts. But people add new locations for a variety of reasons from self-expression to self-promotion. Business are catching on to Foursquare (I got my first freebie last month via Foursquare– a tasty gelato. It has been slow for businesses but it is catching on.). One business owner noted that many locals were unaware of her business as she ships out of state, but she enjoyed Foursquare as she was able to “put our business location “on the map”.
  • Another motivation for participating in Foursquare is for expression and advocacy. Here we can see an example on Foursquare of a location-based virtual protest. This location was added last summer for the temporary prison for G20. (It along with almost all other references to G20 protests were no longer available on Foursquare despite that fact that Toronto’s Pride Festival which happened at roughly the same time lasted months before its content was overwritten or removed.) Similar protests were also witnessed in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, which resulted in China banning Foursquare I saw people using the Foursquare to map for a range of statements from the personal to the socio-political. This range can be seen by comparing two tips ascribed to Toronto’s Union Station: Don&apos;t take photos during the G20 summit, unless you fancy being questioned by police! and Standing in front of people who got to platforms before you is always a dick move, be a good person.
  • Allowing anyone to add information can democratize production; it also has the flip side. Anyone can post almost anything – and they do. It’s hard to go far in Toronto without someone having mapped their house under some cute self-aggrandizing title. Also tips such as “goin home” for Union Station or “3 blocks from my home” for a movie cinema show users post individual content in a public forum unaware or unconcerned with its impact on the collective utility. Spammers were also quick to realize Foursquare’s potential and consequently have dilute its value. User norms and filtering mechanisms are still not fully developed, so it is possible that future versions of Foursquare will either automatically or manually purge unwanted noise. I certainly wouldn’t miss the spam or the narcissistic posts, but the incomprehensible mutterings can be fun at times.
  • It is noteworthy that the Foursquare makes visible different layers of meaning for a given space. It virtually and permanently attaches and shares our understandings of place to a physical space. This screenshot detail of Robarts library next door, show the various components of this. I had no idea it was the setting for the zombie horror or of the availability of media room. This demonstrates the range of meaning ascribed to one place – from the sublime to the ridiculous and from the practical to the whimsical. This as a form of social media is different than other forms of social media, in that here place is central. With sites such as Facebook or Twitter it is the person or friends that are central. You still have people as key elements in Foursquare, as tips are ascribed to authors and you can keep track of what your friends are doing from the application homepage. But the central organizing concept of Foursquare is place. I think the power of this application and the central focus on place has affected our relationship to place. Citizens could always comment on place but now they are able to distribute it more publicly and more permanently.
  • It should be noted that not everyone can participate. This recent map from Foursquare shows checkins globally for 2010. Every country in the world has had a checkin, including North Korea, which was the last. It shows the dramatic coverage of this application that’s less than 2 years old – yet the digital divides is glaringly obvious. Participation barriers remain based on ability, financial status, literacy, and geography. Mobile devices, initially cell phones and increasingly smartphones, are however becoming increasingly popular even in the world’s poorest region. Nonetheless, participation barriers of various sorts should be considered and addressed. But with the convergence of distributed network access offered by the Internet, growing ubiquity of mobile devices, and open application platforms and data, new forms of participatory and locative media are emerging. Specifically, Internet-enabled smartphones are allowing more people to create, use, and share geographic information wherever they may be. Mobile technology like Foursquare are now enabling people to better access information when and where it is desired. Citizens are using this technology to demarcate their own world - creating layers of information they determine to be meaningful to their own sense of place. Foursquare can be thus be seen to give citizens the keys to truly “unlock their city”.
  • User-Generated Map and Meaning Making via Foursquare

    1. 1. User-Generated Map & Meaning Making via Foursquare Presented by Glen Farrelly
    2. 2. Sense of Place
    3. 3. Foursquare
    4. 4. User-generated Content
    5. 5. Method
    6. 6. Contextual Inquiry
    7. 7. Findings
    8. 8. Foursquare User Types The Curious Wants to see what’s going on The Narcissist Publishes vanity information The Gamer Strives for honours & titles The Advocate Promotes socio-political causes The Professional Furthers their business goals The Cartographer Adds & helps define places The Socializer Seeks to make & communicate with friends The Explorer Finds new places & offerings
    9. 9. Citizen Cartographers
    10. 10. Geography as Statement
    11. 11. What’s on the Map? <ul><ul><li>Communal events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer advice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expressions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Histories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Redundancies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Narcissism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spam </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Incomprehensible mutterings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Statements of the obvious </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Layers of Meaning
    13. 13. Conclusion
    14. 14. Further Information <ul><ul><li>Elwood, S. (2006). Critical Issues in participatory GIS: Deconstructions, reconstructions, and new research directions. Transactions in GIS , 10(5), 693-708. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Holtzblatt, K., & Jones, S. (1993). Contextual inquiry: A participatory technique for system design. In D. Schuler & A. Namioka (Eds.), Participatory design: Principles and practices (pp. 177-210). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Schwarzer, M. (2010, June). A sense of place, a world of augmented reality. Places . Retrieved from http://places.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=13618 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tulloch, D. L. (2007). Many, many maps: Empowerment and online participatory mapping. First Monday, 12(2). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1620/1535 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Zickuhr, K., & Smith, A. (2010). 4% of online Americans use location-based services. Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Location-based-services.aspx </li></ul></ul>
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