Earning Your Badges: A review of Gowalla

In Julie Meloni’s article, she reviews the Gowalla site and discusses how its features can be applied as a supplement towards education and visitor experience at museums.

At first look, Gowalla is a location-based social network, much similar to the Foursquare application. Users on their mobile devices “check-in” at spots near notable locations, such as landmarks, statues or building sites, receiving a badge/item to add towards your account’s collection (these may be redeemed for real-life prizes). Gowalla comes with challenges to get special badges and users can create customized trips to provide other users tours that target specific sites to visit.

The ability to create these custom trips becomes a useful tool for education. Because any location can be marked for visit on the trips, these places can range from favorite stores, to little-known historical markers and sites; this allows users to reconnect the history of special locations to others. As each location has a short paragraph with information about the site along with photos made by other users, Gowalla can help bring more exposure about these places to other who may not know about them.

Meloni suggests several ways that Gowalla can be used with museums to enhance the visitor experience. These suggestions include linking objects in an exhibit to its place of origin (and vice versa, where going to a location may link the visitor to related examples at nearby museums), creating specialized exhibits to collaborate with Gowalla trips, and creating specific bonus badges that are earned in addition to the initial badges from the exhibit.

Gowalla can become a great tool in uncovering historical sites and locations to both students and visitors, providing a nice interactive approach in combing both sightseeing and learning into a single tour or “trip”. Other than the ways that Meloni suggests in her article, can you think of other ways that Gowalla could be applied to learn about locations?

4 Replies to “Earning Your Badges: A review of Gowalla”

  1. I like what Gowalla is doing. It's basically a fun app, something cheap you can use for fun, but offers a broader experience outside that. Unlike Foursquare, Gowalla offers you a way to interact with the world outside of its digital presence, or even better, to create that digital presence. Meloni's ideas are great, especially for smaller local museums which don't get as much traffic. I see this being useful on road trips. Have to get off at an exit for gas, but have some time to kill? Use Gowalla to highlight local attractions, anything from the best mom-and-pop restaurants to locations in the historical district. Towns can create their own digital presence and highlight their best aspects.

  2. Out of curiosity I downloaded the app to my android phone. It tells you how far away you are from gas, restaurants, stores (including grocery stores), physician offices and other interesting spots. I never considered the concept of "checking in on my phone" to let people know where I am…maybe I don't want to share my day to day activities, I mean really do I want people to know that I am at the gynecologists office or shopping for groceries? I do like the idea of using this app at say a museum to provide a guide for students so that they don't miss exhibits I would like them to see…the educational possibilities are the most interesting part of this program.

  3. After considering the pros and cons, applications and limitations, etc etc of Gowalla, I think this could be a really positive tool for the ever tech savvier kid. As the reviewer mentioned, she was put off by the meaningless 'achievements' about FourSquare- and I have to agree. Working for the Park Service, which the cofounder of Gowalla, Inc. mentions (in so many words), I think this app could be more or less seemlessly incorporated into the ubiquitous Junior Ranger program. I went to a new social media meeting for the Park Service a couple of weeks ago, and it sounds like they are still FourSquare leaning, even with its more 'adult' content. Was Gowalla overlooked because its more family friendly?

  4. I'm not sure, but I think it's multifaceted interface with information, directions, reference points, goals, etc. is something that the Park Service already tries to achieve with the old school Junior Ranger program. Now, I don't expect that every junior ranger nerd is walked around with an Iphone glued it his/her hand, but maybe those overzealous parents are?! I recently met an overzealous set of parents to a junior ranger who could just NOT understand how to get to their next destination. Perhaps if they had been using an NPS sanctioned Gowalla prefab trip guide- they wouldn't have had to think twice about getting directions to the next site. So I think what I'm getting at is that if NPS and other parks/historic sites are going to use this geolocating application software, Foresake Foursquare and GOwalla!

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