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UCLA enters Foursquare’s networking grid

By Alexia Boyarsky

Feb. 4, 2011 1:44 a.m.

On an average day during the summer, Nathaniel Villegas would visit his apartment, park his car in his parking spot, and go to class or to the library. Right after he got to a place, Villegas would use his iPhone to update his location on Foursquare and share it with his friends.

Foursquare is a website founded in 2009 that uses GPS technology to allow users to see where their friends are. As an avid user of the social networking website, Villeagas, a fourth-year communications studies student, took every opportunity he could to create unique locations.

Besides being a tool for finding where friends are, Foursquare also has a competitive aspect: Users who are frequent visitors to specific spots can compete to become the mayor of that location by checking in the most times. UCLA is now an official venue on Foursquare, and Villegas has been appointed the Foursquare campus ambassador.

Although UCLA already has venues on the website that were created by regular users, the campus is now part of the Foursquare initiative to get college campuses to create official venue sites that have up-to-date information and correct GPS mapping. Currently, different departments and groups on campus, including ASUCLA, the Fowler and Hammer museums, the Athletics department and the Volunteer Center, are working on developing content for the new UCLA Foursquare, said Julie Sweeney, director of integrated communications for UCLA.

Plans include creating venues for different UCLA landmarks to make virtual tours possible for visitors, as well as creating pages for different events that are happening around campus.

“It provides another way to build the community among students and visitors and also allows them to learn more about the campus through the “˜tips,'” Sweeney said.

Tips are short explanations that users can add to venues that describe the locations or add helpful information.

Although some students said they have never heard of Foursquare, the UCLA page has over 1,500 followers.

Despite many students not having accounts on the website, some students said they think the new additions to the UCLA page would be helpful. Nisa Farhangi, a third-year history student who does not use the website, said the addition of tips will be more useful than only knowing the locations of her friends.

Some students said they did not have Foursquare accounts because of privacy concerns. “Generally when people meet each other and add (each other) on Facebook, they do not want all of those people to know where they are all the time,” said Brandon Willms, a third-year English student.

However, Sweeney said that with the privacy controls that are available on Foursquare, the concerns about safety or privacy can be appeased. Users have the ability to surf the website and see where their friends are checked in without being visible to other users.

“You can opt to “˜stay off the grid,’ if that’s what you choose. … It allows you an opportunity for privacy, so if anyone is worried about someone following them, they can just be off the grid,” Sweeney said.

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Alexia Boyarsky
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