What does Foursquare have in common with Harry Potter?

Dennis Crowley’s vision for Foursquare may have something in common with the Marauder’s Map from the Harry Potter series. Crowley recently told Memeburn that he wants to develop Foursquare so that users will be able to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of their friends, family and other social network contacts.

The Marauder’s Map allows its user to find out where anyone is on the Hogwarts grounds. Sound familiar? Thing is, to use the map, you have to utter the words “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good”. All you have to do to use Foursquare is tap an icon on your phone.

Why do we need to know where our friends are all the time? In the Potter universe it’s a plot device. Our lives generally don’t need those to move forward.

Taking it one step further, why do I need to know where a distant contact, possible ex-colleague, high school peer or random acquaintance who felt the need to ‘friend’ me is each second of the day? Surely if they wanted me there they would have invited me, and if I had wanted to be with them wouldn’t I be there already?

If we’re talking long-distance here, wouldn’t they rather have taken the time to inform me of their travels prior, during, or even after the actual time? If they couldn’t have been bothered to do all of that, why would I want to waste my time watching their little black dot moving around a real life Marauder’s Map?

That’s not to say I’m not a fan of Foursquare. I think it’s a strong marketing tool when Joe Blog checks into a certain place and then recommends it or compliments outstanding service. That’s a walking advert right there – directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak, no sales team or carrot-dangling required.

But do I want to keep tabs on the exact movements and locations of every person in my social network? I don’t think so.

In general, people don’t like the idea of being watched, followed, tracked or monitored. If they choose to check in at certain places and choose to share those experiences with others, then I don’t see an issue with that (those kinds of people are most likely to be the kind that over-share in general anyway).

Imagine having a paranoid mother on your case 24/7 (like someone tapping constantly on your shoulder), wanting to know where you are every second of the day. Now imagine every social connection desiring the same information. Scary.

Like the Marauders Map, Foursquare could also be used with sinister intent.

If, for example, you were having an affair (not that I have experience in this, but I do watch a lot of Hollywood movies) and by watching your partner’s movements you knew they had just ‘checked into’ a business meeting at a certain place, would that give you enough of a notice period to indulge in a fleeting moment of passion?

I also take issue with the fact that my smartphone is slowly but surely being turned into a tracking device, so one of these days I can be hunted down at any given moment – an interesting link between the mischievous nature of the fictional map in the Harry Potter series and the very real communication technology that is on the increase amongst our ever-growing 2.0, tech savvy consumer.

Denis Crowley might be heralding in the future with his vision for Foursquare, especially when it comes to new forms of advertising and marketing. I really hope, however, that we don’t end up with a Marauder’s Map situation. If that becomes the case I might need to take an extended trip to the Room of Requirement.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.