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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Locative Life: Geocaching, Mobile Gaming, and Embodiment


This paper analyzes a worldwide GPS treasure hunt game that is played in over 200 countries with game pieces that travel the globe and are tracked online. The game players hide geocache containers in public areas, marking them with GPS coordinates. Players use their mobile devices (from GPS receivers to iPhones) to track down the container, sign the log, and leave tradable and trackable items in the cache. This mobile game offers the perfect example of the blending of material and virtual interfaces, notions of presence and absence, visible and invisible, and utilitarian and playful purposes of everyday objects. Embodied subjectivity in Geocaching is gaining through a correspondence between the user’s location gained through GPS coordinates, the finding of a material object hidden in everyday space, and the signing of the logbook in the container. The act of physically signing the logbook as a way to prove embodied “presence” in material space is highly dependent on the screen space of the GPS receiver. Thus, I argue for a cohesive sense of embodiment gained through a “proprioceptive-semiotic” convening of bodies, technologies, and socially constructed spaces.

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