Foursquare and identity: Checking-in and presenting the self through location.

Saker, M.

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Saker, M. (2017). Foursquare and identity: Checking-in and presenting the self through location. New Media & Society, 19(6), 934–949.

Foursquare , Identity , LBSN , Localisation , Location-based Social Network , Locative Media , Performance , Social Media , Spatial Self

Foursquare is a location-based social network (LBSN) that allows people to share their location with friends by ‘checking-in’ at a given place using their smartphone. The application can also access the location-based recommendations left by other users. Drawing on original qualitative research with a range of Foursquare users, the article sets out to examine this LBSN and its impact on identity in three ways. Using Schwartz and Halegoua’s ‘spatial self’ as ‘a theoretical framework encapsulating the process of online self-presentation based on the display of offline physical activities’, the article first examines the extent to which users understand check-ins as mediating identity. Second, the article explores whether the act of using Foursquare beyond the sharing of location can similarly be seen as contributing to identity. Last, the article examines what effect location-based recommendations might be having on how users subsequently experience themselves.

Main finding
Location-based social networks (LBSMs) provide opportunities for users to engage in new ways with physical locations and curate representations of self. In this study of users of the LBSM called Foursquare, researchers find that when participants "check in" at a location they are performing a “front stage” behavior, and for this reason many often will only check in at locations that support the public self image they desire to cultivate (e.g., checking in at a gym) as opposed to at those that do not (e.g., deciding not to check in at a fast food restaurant). Researchers find users often employ the application as a tool for curating self-presentation and also for exploring previously unknown locations, but less so for seeking in-person encounters with others.

Description of method used in the article
Semi-structured interviews (N = 22, Age M = 32) in the summer of 2012 with residents of southeast Britain who were users of the location-based social network (LBSN), Foursquare. Foursquare is an LBSN that was (a) social: it enabled users to share their location with others by "checking-in" at specific places, (b) locational: it provided place-specific recommendations, and (c) playful: it included gamification strategies such as badges and rewards for number of check-ins. Interviews lasted approximately on hour and focused on the relationship between Foursquare use and identity.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Digital Device Engagement Performance/Cultural Expression
Physical types
Geographic locations