Assignment: Choose an article of interest (regarding location-based/geosocial services) to summarize as part of your journal blog reflections.
This week’s topic is as foreign yet as familiar to me as anything we’ve discussed so far.
The concept and functionality of geosocial services is probably one of the social media elements I am most familiar with. I’ve long been a fan of ‘checking in’ on Facebook, to the point that many of my friends on there have a tendency to get a laugh out of it. In my pre-grad school days and to some extent still now, I can be a pretty mobile guy when it comes to a night on the town or actually just in general daily routine. And unlike most (or maybe even ALL) of my Facebook counterparts, I have had a tendency to check in just about everywhere I go. This can result in three to five checkins in the three-or-four-hour course of a given evening. Because I guess many people on my friends list are a bit more sedentary and because the typical Facebook user has the site up on their computer for hours at a time, it’s easy to be distracted by that kind of activity on my part. So I get the response “where is Barry gonna be in the next five minutes?” pretty often.
Alluding to what we discussed in class to some extent, I also like that social media (and checking in an as a record of activity) allow us to compose a veritable digital archive of our own history. It’s fun to look back and see where I was or what I was doing a year or more ago, and the social media record makes that easy to do. So in the personal aspect, location-based functionality has been a friend of mine.
Where geosocial functionality is foreign to me is in the realm of journalism. Quite honestly, when this consideration first presented itself, I couldn’t imagine how a reporter could capitalize on an app like Foursquare. Part of that confusion was because I wasn’t really familiar with that application, but further because it just didn’t configure how location-based technology and journalism could cohabitate. Obviously location matters when reporting news events, but because I didn’t have a command for how Foursquare even works, it just didn’t make sense.
Then I downloaded the app. Whoa. This is like a match made in HEAVEN. Now that I understand the features and benefits of an app like Foursquare, I can only guess how excited I would’ve been to have had this kind of tool when I was a reporter. “Going where the people are,” as Snow characterizes it, is a God-send for reporters. Gone are the days of my experience when a reporter might end up standing outside the Post Office for hours on end desperately trying to find someone willing to comment about a story on camera. Not only is the ‘man on the street’ more gregarious these days (probably largely because of social media), but he is also more easily located. This is an easy function of crowd sourcing as well.
And the whole ‘tips‘ aspect tied in with geosocial services like Foursquare–now that’s cool. I got a quick understanding about that with only my very first check-in (and my first visit) at Taziki’s after class last week, when I immediately read a tip from my colleague Elle Perry about what was good to eat there. Awesome.
But there are drawbacks. A long-time user of the location-based “gay dating app” called Grindr, in many ways I’ve loved the capability to meet and talk to guys whom that app indicates are nearby. That has come in especially handy being new in Memphis. And an article in the suggested list for summary indicates that app has made the move to Android in addition to iPhone-based access. Growth is a good thing, because with any luck it indicates there are increasing numbers of other guys to talk to. 😉
Following a link on that article led me to another that had more compelling (and also somewhat disturbing) implications for location-based technology. Apparently Grindr has launched into the world of heterosexual interaction for its geosocial services. As Nitasha Tiku writes, straight people can now enjoy the same convenience of meeting people via Grindr’s technology. This is not new, as other such location-based dating technologies exist. But what’s compelling in this particular article is how Tiku points out that the technology is particularly convenient for residents in dense metro areas like New York City, where there are actually too many people to meet. This is opposite to my typical experience as a client of Grindr, where the opportunities to meet men in the areas I’ve typically lived in are too sparse and the app simply is a way of meeting someone at all.
But as Tiku points out, for some, the risk of exposure in heavily populated areas multiplies exponentially and negatively with this type of app. It could be very likely to be looking at the profile of a person sitting right across from you on the subway. Normally that might be okay–even a good thing. But on the chance that the person owning that other profile is creepy or has underhanded intentions, this whole scenario just puts a face on the risk. The antidote is as much as keeping your face off your profile, but eventually face pictures are swapped in online scenarios like these, so the risk pervades when someone can nearly pinpoint your exact location.
This article goes on to explain how Grindr’s new heterosexual version of its technology might best work as a type of Craigslist ‘missed connections’ function, where users can essentially more easily attempt to re-encounter someone they had previously seen in a public place when there might be no other means to try to reestablish that connection. Craigslist for mobile users, as it were, I can see how useful that function would be, especially in very crowded urban areas where both chance and missed encounters are likely the frequent order of the day.
In either aspect, Grindr and other geosocial services like it that serve as interpersonal/dating sites have already shown tremendous success. In 2011 during the app’s pre-android existence, there were already 1.5 million male users via iOS and Blackberry in 180 countries. Obviously there are a host of social media users who have already learned not to be afraid of location-based technology, which is largely due to everyday, more general-use apps like Foursquare. The trend of comfortability with this type of self-exposure will likely only continue to grow.