Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Social network Foursquare not for squares

DU’s Mary Reed Hall is one of the newest signposts on Foursquare. Check out the “tips” section for a special message. Photo: Chase Squires

Take a walk around the University of Denver and you’ll see signs everywhere pointing out places to study, info on fitness memberships and even a special on ice cream.

Of course, the signs are invisible to the naked eye. Savvy travelers need a WiFi-connected device or a smart phone with GPS and the Foursquare application. Turn on, tune in and join the conversation.

Foursquare is one of the social media apps changing the media landscape. Instead of depending on professional reporters to alert others to a good deal or a fine restaurant, social media users turn to each other. Yelp and TripAdvisor, for example, create giant databases of user-generated comments and reviews. Foursquare — with about 3 million users — does that, too. But instead of requiring a user to sit down at a computer and type in a location or desired service, Foursquare lets users turn on the application and see what’s around them based on their location.

Foursquare users walking the DU campus can check in at the Penrose Library. Once there, “tips” section user Joseph K. (users are only identified by a first name and an initial) suggests checking out the extensive DVD collection. Another user, Peter R., warns, “Get here early on Sunday or regret being stuck on a couch with no power outlets nearby.” Hmm, good advice.

Foursquare users can “check in” at marked locations, indicating to friends where they are or have been, and then upload those check-ins to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Check in enough at one site and become the “mayor” of that location.

Dyah Ayuni Wijayanti became the mayor of Penrose Library in August while studying for her graduate entrance exam over the summer. The Indonesian student hopes to enroll in the Daniels College of Business and has been spending long hours in the library.

She says she got interested in Foursquare after her friends got into it. She uses her iPod Touch to connect when she enters a WiFi zone, such as Penrose.

“I was thinking, maybe this would be interesting, and it is. It’s fun,” she says. “I am very used to other social media, Twitter, Facebook, and this is another form. It’s very easy to get in to.”

Other users around campus suggest the light rail as the best route to the Ritchie Center, discuss alternate memberships for swimmers who want to use the El Pomar Natatorium without a full fitness center membership, and recommend the excellent spicy chicken bowl deal at the Tokyo Bowl restaurant. If spicy chicken doesn’t sound good, Paul D. suggests the chicken kabob sandwich at Pete’s University Park Café up the street.

Alex P. reminds everyone visiting the Josef Korbel School of International Studies to “get your diplomacy on.” No, not every Foursquare tip is particularly helpful, but many are amusing.

And there are deals for Foursquare users only. At the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream store near campus, users can check in and unlock a secret discount, a buy-one-get-one cone deal. The mayor of Ben and Jerry’s gets a free extra scoop to boot.

The “signs” are everywhere around campus, for those who know how to look for them. And if looking for Foursquare markers gets old, Foursquare can also help find something else to do. As Blake B. notes on the Driscoll Student Center tips page, “Hit up Explore Denver table on the north side in the cafeteria for cheap or free tickets to local attractions and events.”

And then there’s always school work.

“Need a quick place to stop and do some brief work?” asks Peter R. “Check the second-story alcove overlooking the commons and hang out with the flags.”

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