Emergent Discourse: Foursquare, Fostering Virtual/ Real Colonization?

Hi all,

I read Simone S. Oliver’s article “Who Elected Me Mayor on Foursquare? I Did” from the New York Times the other day and totally had an amazing nerd moment that I just have to share… I’m not a huge techy so I didn’t really find out about Foursquare until literally two days ago, but learning about how this program works and its essential purpose- basically allowing ordinary people like you to become the “mayor” of different sites based on the number of times you “check-in” to an area via GPS on your smart phone- was incredibly mind-blowing.

First, I was shocked by how many people were actually interested in participating in Foursquare (even to the extent of obsession where it becomes increasingly competitive to maintain hold of your mayorship). Then, I thought “wow”- Foursquare essentially grants normal, everyday people the power to claim a title of distinction (i.e. mayor) and to “own” not only a virtual, but a tangible physical site (i.e. your office building, a coffee shop, and even an alleyway). Honestly, I thought it was crazy at first, but it does make sense- we are all craving to possess something (going back as far as the American Dream). Especially with today’s economy some people might not be able to feel the thrill of ownership with anything other than Foursquare. Technology has enabled us to become virtual colonizers… and not even just virtual because we are colonizing actual physical spaces that can be located via GPS. Is that cool or creepy? With the stigma associated with colonizers, do we really want to think of ourselves as such? (This seems to be where the title of “Mayor” kicks in. But then again, while connoting democratic election, it doesn’t actually mean that, as the article title suggests: “Who Elected Me Mayor of Foursquare? I Did.”

Yet, the nerd attack continues… Oliver also makes it a point to emphasize how Foursquare has drawn couples together and created unlikely unions out of competition for virtual/real spaces and after reading about these success stories, I’m beginning to think that I would like to meet someone through Foursquare as well (Unfortunately, I really can’t afford a smart phone on a grad student stipend). However, I do think that it is fascinating how technology is providing new ways for people to find romance, bridging the virtual space of the internet with the “real” world… and I’m sure that is why Foursquare and other online dating sites have become so popular, because honestly, aren’t all of us looking for love?

Well, I think that I should probably stop writing now before I start taking quotes from the article and this short post becomes a two-page article. But hopefully what I’ve written here will start some interesting discussions, especially for you, Sharon, because I know that your current research has to do with technology 😀