Reprogramming landscapes of play: navigation and narrative in Geocaching

Jack Lowe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Concurrent with the development and growing ubiquity of digital and locative technologies in recent decades, scholars and creative practitioners are recognising how the location-aware, information-sharing, and mobile capabilities of these tools can enable new forms of interaction with the environments in which we live. Pervasive games in particular are credited with a capacity to expand arenas of play and performance into physical landscapes, opening up their pre-existing, everyday narratives for critical engagement and re-imagination when encountered through the affordances of a game’s rules and mediating technologies (Montola, 2005). In Geocaching, a popular GPS treasure-hunting game hosting a worldwide community of >7 million players, participants creatively hide containers with logbooks (‘[geo]caches’) in physical places for others to find. Using a combination of GPS coordinates and hints provided online, players must locate caches and mark visits by writing in their logbooks. Although the game has existed since 2000, scholarly attention has mostly been limited to accounts codifying its practices (Klausen, 2014), with little reflection on how the gameplay can expand and problematise the concept of landscape. This presentation addresses this question using insights from autoethnographic research undertaken over three years as a player, discussing how Geocaching can foster reprogrammed forms of spatial awareness and navigation, and embodied play performances enabling participants to interact with physical environments in narrativizing ways. In turn, I draw upon post-phenomenology to develop an approach to landscape that incorporates materiality, agency, affect, and embodiment to apprehend how the hybrid digital landscapes of pervasive games are experienced by players.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes of Digital Games session at RGS-IBG 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 31 Aug 2018
EventRGS-IBG Annual International Conference - Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Aug 201831 Aug 2018


ConferenceRGS-IBG Annual International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • geocaching
  • post-phenomenology
  • navigation
  • narrative
  • pervasive games
  • games
  • landscape
  • play
  • GPS
  • attunement

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