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Tag Archives: location-based technology

The Treasure Hunt Begins!

Q: Does Geocaching Facilitate Physical Social Interaction?

Ahoy, me hearty! After sailing all seven seas of the World Wide Web, I have brought you a booty of information on modern day pirate treasure hunting, or “geocaching” as thar landlubbers call it!

Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind that this activity is much more than a simple treasure hunt, as hobbyists quickly discover upon becoming involved with geocaching (called “caching” by the gentlemen o’fortune). There’s a rich history to how the activity started and its successful growth through the years. An abbreviated version, though, will do for now: it started in 2000 with just 1 cache being placed right outside of Portland, Oregon; today, it’s a worldwide activity with 983,726 active caches and counting.

For a great explanation of Geocaching (and a brief discussion of my question at hand, at the end), check out this video where the founder of geocaching.com is interviewed: (if it takes too long to load, here’s the direct link)

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Blip.tv video.

Geocaching never would have become as popular as it is today, though, without the Internet (and the handheld GPS). Its online social community is integral to the way the game operates; like other more traditional social media websites, such as Facebook and Myspace, it has been able to connect people from all around the world through the ease of a mouse click. This Internet-based social community might be only part of the reason geocaching is successful, though, much unlike the more traditional social media websites. By its very nature, geocaching seems to also promote a sense of physical socialization, which many other social media websites fail to do.

The beauty of caching is that it takes the player outdoors, adamantly following clues, puzzles, comments, and the obscure ever-shifting arrow on a handheld GPS device. The cacher hopes that this information will ultimately lead him to the end prize: a hidden container with a log book (where people log their caching name as proof that they found the cache) and possibly “treasure” (ranging from little trinkets, such as a key chain, to $100 store gift certificates and even $60 in cash).

Though caching research begins individually on www.geocaching.com, a new social dynamic is opened once the outside search begins; others may participate by helping solve puzzles and clues, helping locate the cache, or simply to tag along for the trek. The average cacher seldom hunts for caches alone, often having a spouse or friend come for the journey. Thus, what may normally only be a virtual bonding experience also becomes one of physical bonding. In a research study on geocaching, it was found that participants regard it, as a way to spend time with partners, family and friends.” One interviewee from this study discussed how geocaching helps get their children away from the computer:

“…but if you are trying to get them out of their darkened bedroom where they have got World of Warcraft to play on – so in order to entice them out it was just another thing – …not just to go for a blind walk but to actually go and find a geocache.”

Geocaching thus becomes a bimodal medium of communication, creating opportunities for members to communicate in a richer and more diverse fashion than that of traditional social media.

Avast! For me next excursion, I be contemplating between 3 different adventures in order to search for me burried treasure and answer me question. They be:

  1. Delving deeper into the motivations behind why people geocache and what they get out of it, in terms of the physical act of geocaching
  2. The geocaching community in the physical realm, i.e. meetings that are held
  3. Exploring what social media websites with both this virtual and physical means of communication could mean for the future

I hope to cover at least 2 of these topics, but feel as if the blog post might become too lengthy. What would you like to hear about?

Until next time! Yo, ho, ho!