From FYSE 1396: Digital Media Literacy
Jump to navigationJump to search

Foursquare is a location based application on mobile devices that allows one to check-in their location where ever they want. It is one of the most famous location-based service and is used by over 40 million people.[1] Foursquare is another type of social networking media that allows people to post their location and share it with their followers. Users follow people and are followed by people in the exact same way that Twitter handles their users. There are many different aspects to foursquare that make it an appealing application. People use foursquare for reasons such as connecting with people, meeting up with friends, finding good places to go to, and gaming. Foursquare uses GPS location software on the application to locate nearby venues according to the users current location to prompt the user to check-in. Users will check-in using the smart-phone application and it will immediately be public to all of the user's followers.

Foursquare was launched to the public in 2009 by co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai. They began working on the application in 2008 and it was only a year later that foursquare was created. It wasn't untill 2010 that foursquare took off and became a globally used location-based social networking software. There are 160 employees in only three locations making this application happen. The headquarters are located in New York City, there is a office in San Francisco, and a smaller office in London. It is a private company that is funded by Union Square Ventures, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, and various others. [1]

Foursquare took off and is now the most used location-based social network device and grew a large amount over the last year or so. More and more people are getting involved in the check-in culture of social media and sharing locations online, as various applications have done a lot to maintain solid privacy settings.



Foursquare has many different uses, which makes it appealing to users with a wide range of personalities and desires. Some use it to socialize with friends and strangers alike, and others use it to locate nearby entertainment, food, and shopping venues, similar to applications like Yelp and AroundMe. People seem to prefer Foursquare to these other applications because it has multiple uses.

  • Social Networking
The social aspect is the most common use of Foursquare. People use it to connect with random people that are interested in going to similar locations, to meet people that are nearby, to meet up with friends, and to share their experiences. People tend to like building up their follower database whether these people are random or not, which can be creepy within location-based media. People sometimes check in at home to show that they are available to their friends and that they are bored.[2] Under privacy settings, one has the option to make their profile and check-ins public or not and one also has the ability to not allow random people to follow them. As a result of the privacy settings, there are not too many stories of bad incidents, because it is all up to the user as to how much the user shares.
  • Locations
The use of Foursquare for locations is also very popular. People can just use the application solely for finding cool places nearby and reading reviews about these places. Foursquare recommends places that are customized to your taste and liking, as you check-in more often. The locations can be used for meeting people in nearby communities and that is how one builds their social network.
  • Entertainment
The gaming aspect is a huge part of Foursquare and attracts users that are not only interested in the social media aspect of the application. The application awards badges to users who continually check-in. Foursquare also implements a point system that allows its users to work towards a greater number of badges. The specifics of the point is described in the feature section of this page. Another key reason people check in at locations is so that they can be awarded the "mayor" of the location. The person that has the most check-ins at a certain location becomes "mayor." So people will try and become "mayor" of each others houses. The badges and mayorship is a very clever way of getting users to check-in as often as they can.
  • Surprise Uses
The Surprise uses of Foursquare include safety and availability. People often utilize the application to maintain home security. For example, users may "check in" at their homes at various points while being away so that criminals are discouraged to break in. Other users may "check in" at home to ensure their friends and family that they have gotten home safely. In a system of location notification over Foursquare among friends, a lack of update quickly indicates that a user is in trouble.

These four main uses of Foursquare, among others, have greatly changed online communication. Compared to five or Six years ago when the site did not exist, friends and family could not imagine sharing locations online. When Foursquare came about, the public approached the application very hesitantly. There are many mixed reviews on the idea of location-based media from different groups of people world wide because Foursquare changes norms of privacy and communication. When people share their locations online, whether for social, security or game-related motives, their levels of privacy decrease. In the next few years, applications will continue to develop location accuracy, and social media will integrate location track among friends. Other applications such as "Find Friends" on the iPhone already exist, but they have been received to be intrusive and abnormal.

People can now communicate, contact each other, and meet new people by checking in with their location. The communication part of foursquare relates it to the real life world much more than other social networks because it is more current and personal. The amount of privacy that one maintains after starting a social media platform relates to how deep the connection between virtual friends get. For instance on a location-based network, the amount of personal privacy that you can maintain is much less than if you used a site, such as facebook, and therefore you can learn a lot about someone by their locations that they post.

Foursquare has boomed in the last year, due to the fact that people are slowly getting over the fact that it can be dangerous and understanding the privacy controls and only allowing the friends that follow them to see their check-ins. My hope is that they maintain only good friends rather than just a typical "Facebook friend" where you may have met the person only one time. That would not be good at all and would definitely cause safety issues. The application has also become more popular as more people start using it and as more people obtain smart phones. It can definitely be a great application and has a lot of potential to become more popular than it already is. The idea and technology behind it is definitely very impressive.

Digital Media's Seven Key Concepts

Digital media devices and applications can be used for many different things. In the book "Personal Conenctions in the Digital Age, author, Nancy Baym, talks about seven key concepts that realte each and everyone of the digital media ways to similarities and differences. The first concept, interactivity, has to do with the why in which people use a application, whether it social, technical, or textual. The second is temporal structure, which has to do with whether or not the communication is synchronous or asynchronous. The third is social cues, which has to do with the sensory information. The fourth is storage, whether it is ephemeral vs permanent. The fifth is replicability, whether the data is copied and what the limits are to that. The sixth is reach, which has to do with the size and scope of the audience, including privacy limits. The seventh, is mobility, which refers to the spatial location. [3]


Temporal Structure

Foursquare is more asynchronous than synchronous, as most of the time you don't see the exact current location of the friends that you follow. You see their locations later on. It does depend on the person though because some friends will use it for the moment to find out where each other are to meet up. [3]

Social Cues

Foursquare provides textual social clues as it gives the written location of each user. However, it also uses visual cues by displaying a street map with the user's location marked. This allows people to easily see where their friends are and the name of the place, making the location-based digital tool successful.


The storage aspect of foursquare is a major thing for the application. They build up all the check ins and make sure to use them over and over again to share data about each location. It uses the storage for the gaming aspect and whether or not someone can become a mayor of a location or not. There are many aspects of Foursquare that require storage. This has a lot to do with replicability as well but in this case storage is permanent.


Similar to storage, the check ins will be copied and copied over and over again as more people go to each location and check in. They will also be used for the gamin aspect and for giving reviews to the users of foursquare.


Foursquare's reach is absolutely limitless. As of right now it is over 40 million users, but has the potential to be a lot more. When one checks in their location a limitless amount of people could see it, but in the case of privacy most times people will just share that information with friends that they allow to follow them. In that case the reach of sharing location definitely depends on the person, but that it can be a very large number of people and that it is world wide.


People only really can use foursquare on their smartphone and therefore the application is pretty accessible at all times.


Technology and Environment


  1. 1.0 1.1 Foursquare About.
  2. [Lindqvist, Janne, et al. "I'm the mayor of my house: examining why people use foursquare-a social-driven location sharing application." Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2011.]
  3. 3.0 3.1 [Baym, Nancy K. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. Print.]