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Harvard Partners With Mobile Social Networking App

By Tara W. Merrigan, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard natives and visitors will be able to explore the historic expanse of Harvard Yard and Harvard Square with greater ease as a result of a partnership with a mobile social networking application called foursquare, the University announced on Tuesday.

Foursquarethe first location-based social networking tool to be implemented at Harvard—provides information about venues in cities around the world. Currently, 23 venues are featured on Harvard’s foursquare site, including the John Harvard statue and Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, but more locations may be included in the future since foursquare's content is user-generated.

The true goal is to create a powerful social networking utility," said Tristan J. Walker, foursquare’s vice president of business development. "The inspiration for foursquare came from what Amazon has done with book and other product recommendations for their users—we want to do this with locations."

Foursquare’s mobile application—which is available for download for several smartphones, including the iPhone—incorporates an interactive video game aspect. Application users earn points by visiting different locations featured on foursquare. When a user arrives at a venue, the application’s GPS recognizes the location and prompts users to “check-in”, earning points for the user.

Users who accumulate the requisite number of points can earn various badges, which now include a “Harvard Yard” badge. In addition, the user who frequents a particular venue the most becomes the “mayor” of that location—for example, a user could become the “mayor” of Widener Library or the Science Center.

The mobile application also includes push notifications, which pings tips to users about locations in their immediate area, and a friend finder, which includes logs of the user’s friends that have checked into a certain location in the past three hours.

“Foursquare is one of many ways to drive discovering connections among students, faculty and visitors. It is one of many routes to help individuals experience and discover Harvard’s rich history,” said Perry Hewitt, the director of digital communications and communications services for Harvard Public Affairs and Communications.

Harvard’s participation with foursquare marks the latest move in the University’s push to make itself more accessible to students, faculty, and the general public, according to Hewitt. Other efforts have included the creation of Harvard’s own official Facebook page and Twitter, whose content is edited and updated by HPAC employees.

“We’ve been putting a large effort into how Harvard presents itself online,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said that Harvard Public Affairs and Communications plans to spread the word to University affiliates in the hope that foursquare will become widely used on campus, adding that information about foursquare will be given to visitors at the Events and Information Center, located in Holyoke Center.

—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at tmerrigan@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: January 15, 2010

An earlier version of the Jan. 14 news article "Harvard Partners With Mobile Social Networking App" stated that information about foursquare will be available to visitors at the Agassiz Information Center. In fact, the Events and Information Center will be providing information.

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