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Communication and the Public









In their book, Location-Based Social Media: Space, Time and Identity, Leighton Evans and Michael Saker remark on the apparent ‘death’ of location-based social networks, suggesting that location-based social networks can now be understood as ‘a form of “zombie-media” that animates and haunts other media platforms’. In this article, we use this perspective as a point of departure for a social shaping of technology-informed analysis of two key geomedia platforms: Yelp and Foursquare. With Yelp approaching its 15th year of service and Foursquare approaching its 10th anniversary, this article provides a timely opportunity to (re-)examine the significance of Yelp and Foursquare and the many reconfigurations both firms have made to their services since their launch. These include, most recently, Yelp’s integration of artificial intelligence/machine learning techniques to parse, sift and order users’ posts and Foursquare’s development of its Pilgrim SDK (software design kit) to power the location services of other platforms, like Tinder and Snap. A social shaping-inflected approach is productive in this context in that it stresses how many of these developments and strategic reorientations are not just in response to shareholder and investor pressures, they are also fundamentally shaped by and made in response to the fluctuating demands of end-users within a complicated, competitive and continuously evolving geomedia ecosystem. Consequently, we draw from the work of Leah A Lievrouw to examine how dual tensions of contingency/determination shape how these applications are designed and used, and how both design and use continue to evolve in response to various external pressures.



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