User study about check-in usage in Foursquare

Performing a Check-in: Emerging Practices, Norms and ‘Conflicts’ in Location-Sharing Using Foursquare by Cramer, Rost and Holmquist is an interesting paper presented at Mobile HCI2011. It's basically a user studies of Foursquare usage, based on in-depth interviews and 47 survey responses, about emerging social practices surrounding location-sharing. Some excerpts I found relevant to my own research in location-based services:

"Users appear to share with both smaller and much larger audiences than imagined. Sharing is sometimes only a byproduct, with ‘check-ins for me’, checking in for rewards, gaming and becoming the mayor, points and badges, life-logging, diversion and voyeuristic uses unimagined in most of the previous location-sharing systems research. A check-in is not always motivated through the desire to ‘perform’ or enhance ones self- presentation. However, performative aspects as in do appear to play a large role in shaping interactions. The roles of spectators and performers are reflected in our participants’ attitudes toward check-ins; and awareness of these roles affects their behavior.

We saw users adapt their check-ins to norms of what they perceive as worthwhile check-ins - and that they to a certain extent expect others to do the same. Many participants checked in at what they perceived as more interesting places and in some cases tried to minimize annoyance to others that may result from check-ins that they thought would appear uninteresting. Both the co-present audience observing the physical act of checking-in and the distant audience that (may) see the resulting check-in is considered. We also see the service, and its ’super users’, sometimes serve as an (disapproving) audience and not only a system to be operated. "

Why do I blog this? These results echo with a similar study we conducted internally last year. What I find relevant in understanding the usage of check-in is simply that I became an important alternative to automatic detection of users' location. On this very topic, the paper conclusion is worthwhile as it describe the the intrinsically rich value of check-ins and their implications for contextual data collected by sensors:

"our results represent a major shift in the use and perception of location-sharing services. While it may seem that the check-in’s introduction mainly addresses technical issues (including limited battery life and localization limitations), it actually gives the user new ways to express themselves, while at the same time mitigating problematic issues such as privacy. More speculatively looking to the future, our results perhaps may turn out to hold not just for location sharing, but for all kinds of mobile systems that sense and report a user’s context. While many previous user-adaptive mobile systems have relied on automatic and continuous detection and presentation of the user’s state, future users will be used to the social and performative model that foursquare and other check-in based systems represent. Rather than be constantly tracked, users will selectively share their sensor data, be it physiological readings, locations, activity sensors, orsomething else. "