Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Benefits of Geotargetted Information

Location-based services (LBS) and locative media have garnered a lot of attention - not least of which will be the focus of my dissertation. But the possible benefits beyond increased marketing opportunities has rarely been discussed or studied. Here's some of what I've come up with so far:

Recent studies are showing societal benefits for place-related information accessed via mobile devices (i.e. geotargetted information). In a Pew study, How mobile devices are changing community information environments, 65% of survey respondents with a mobile device feel it is now easier to keep up with local, community information compared with 47% for non-mobile users.

Pew also found people who accessed local news via their mobile were more likely than other adults to feel they can have a substantial impact on their community (35% vs. 27%). According to a Microsoft survey, Location Based Services Usage and Perceptions, in US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan, 50% of smartphone users are using LBS. The leading uses were found to be information seeking, specifically for navigation and way-finding and geotargetted weather forecasts and local news. The survey also found 94% of respondents said they find LBS to be a valuable aid.

It is my belief that geotargetted information can improve our familiarity with places and foster a positive sense of place. Sense of place has been studied in various ways in various disciplines and found to have numerous benefits. From a social perspective, sense has been found to lead to place attachment (Morgan, 2010; Williamson & Roberts, 2010). Place attachment is seen as not only central to one’s identity (Morgan, 2010) but it also assists in the formation of a sense of community (Williams, Kitchen, DeMiglio, Eyles, et al., 2010) and aids people in caring for and protecting their urban environment (Jacobs, 1992). A better understanding of how people form sense of place and the role of  LBS is useful in numerous academic and applied contexts.

From a design perspective, human-computer interaction researchers are beginning to examine the role of SOP and mobile technology (Lentini & Decortis, 2010) and offer tentative interface and interaction recommendations. Tourism and recreation scholars and practitioners can benefit from understanding how visitors come to know and experience travel destinations and their use of LBS so as to improve marketing efforts and visitor satisfaction. This area is also of interest in the fields of urban studies, architecture, and geography to create more responsive land use, buildings, and civic spaces and improve communication resources.. Museologists can benefit from learning how LBS can be used to improve interpretation efforts, patron experience, and conservation efforts.

For librarians, understanding the value of geographically relevant information can be a means of demonstrating the importance of adding georeferenced metadata or mechanisms to collections. Local studies librarianship, the field of study that addresses collecting, preserving, and providing access to the local history and news within the vicinity of a given library branch, can also benefit from this research. Reid & Macafee (2007) believe new technology can move local studies librarianship beyond traditional notions of offering clippings of local newspapers and history discussions to extending their services to new and larger audiences and more effectively engage the community.

There are additional implications to examining LBS as a method of communication and identity performance (Phillips, 201). Finally, there are policy considerations (Phillips, 2011) pertaining to privacy and accessibility that can best be addressed through a deeper understanding of the underlying user behaviour and technology.

I've only begun to look at this and would appreciate any thoughts or publications on this topic...


  • Jacobs, J. (1992). The death and life of great American cities. New York, NY: Vintage.
  • Lentini, L., & Decortis, F. (2010). Space and places: When interacting with and in physical space becomes a meaningful experience. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 14, 407-415. 
  • Morgan, P. (2010). Towards a developmental theory of place attachment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(1), 11-22. 
  • Phillips, D. (2009). Ubiquitous computing, spatiality, and the construction of identity: Directions for policy response. In C. Lucock & I. Kerr (Eds.), Lessons from the identity trail: Anonymity, privacy and identity in a networked society. Oxford University Press.
  • Phillips, D. (2011). Identity and surveillance play in hybrid space. In M. Christensen, A. Jansson, & C. Christensen (Eds.), Online territories: Globalization, mediated practice and social space. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Reid, P. H., & Macafee, C. (2007). The philosophy of local studies in the interactive age. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 39(3), 126 -141. 
  • Williams, A., Kitchen, P., DeMiglio, L., Eyles, J., Newbold, B., & Streiner, D. (2010). Sense of Place in Hamilton, Ontario: Empirical results of a neighborhood-based survey. Urban Geography, 31(7), 905-931. 
  • Williamson, K., & Roberts, J. (2010). Developing and sustaining a sense of place: The role of social information. Library & Information Science Research, 32(4), 281-287. 

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