Class & Lecturer: Fiona Andreallo 12 -3 p.m Thursdays.
Student: Kate Fessey 430344222
As social media applications continue to provide opportunities to integrate the online and offline world in seamless harmony it becomes harder to isolate these experiences. The barriers between online and offline have been continuing to blur particularly with the integration of Location Based Services (LBS) into social media and mobile apps. Boyd (2012), explains, daily activities may not in themselves be “online” but because of technology and in particular mobile devices, the online is never far away (p.17).
Personally, I spend a lot of time where I don’t believe I am online because my activities are not centered on the digital, but in many of these instances I’m not really offline either. “I’m in the grey area where those concepts break down. It’s no longer about online or offline really. It’s about living in a world where we are being networked to people and information wherever and whenever” (Boyd, 2012, p.71).
Whilst studying MECO 6936 Social Media Communication, I have been training for the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon and it is only now, reaching the end of the course and 4 weeks out from the race, that I realise how social, locative and mobile media have changed my experience of running despite me realizing it.
Previously I considered running to be an “offline” activity. However it has come to my attention how incredibly intertwined my training and social media have become. Locative services, GPS tracking and social media has transformed my experiences of running, training and interacting with other runners in more ways than I had realised.
GPs and Locative services – RunKeeper
All over the globe, location-based services such as the global positioning system (GPS), geotagging and Google Maps have become a pervasive part of everyday life (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122). For me it has become a part of everyday running training, whether it is planning a new running route, tracking my performance, comparing my progress with training buddies and or sharing my success with friends.
My training partner and I used to run together everyday, but now having both moved suburbs, it is no longer as easy to run together. Instead we have both downloaded the application RunKeeper which is a GPS fitness tracking app. Runkeeper tracks statistics, progress, and applies verbal coaching. It tracks performance over time, providing a detailed history of activities. Runkeeper shares the details of each run with my training partner, and sends them a notification whenever I complete a workout.
Figure 1: Screenshot of Runkeeper App
Whilst I may not be physically training with my running buddy, the app ensures we are both training equally and allows us to support and encourage each other to perform at our best. We follow a shared online training plan, and can compare our workouts on a leaderboard. This shows how mobile digital devices now frame and mediate our ability to traverse, experience, share and conceptualise place (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122). My training partner and I no longer need to run in the same space as our camaraderie now exists in the app which now forms our mutual training ‘place’.
New running routes can be discovered with the use of this GPS tracking technology as you can see the routes that have been tracked by other people nearby. In this way, locative services changes representations of space by adding content to specific locations (Liao & Humphreys, 2015).
Online and Offline – Blurring the Barriers
Whilst I had always considered running to be an ‘offline’ experience as running holds the allure of ‘going off grid’ by getting outdoors and away from screen time (Stahl, 2015). The RunKeeper app means that running has become highly integrated with the online world. In this way mobile media has shifted the relationship between being online and being offline, creating new types of engagement and co-presence. The RunKeeper app is a good example of how lines that mark out and differentiate the online and the offline, virtual and actual, here and there, are shifting and fading as these zones overlap and integrate with one another (Hinton & Hjorth, p. 128).
As mobile media converges with social and locative technologies, new forms and practices are emerging that are especially focused on developing social connections. The development of location-based social apps, like RunKeeper, blend social relationships with geography (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122).
This application has an online social network of users that share progress, goals, training programs and mapped routes and it allows me to connect with runners in my area, that run the same track that I do and compare and contrast our workouts. In this way I have become part of an online community. The runs that I complete on my own, are now part of a greater community and to be part of a running club no longer involves running with together physically, but rather completing the same tracks that others have previously tracked on the app. Users may develop feelings of membership, influence and value in a community such as this with the increased usage experience (Hinton & Hjorth, p. 128).
Online running and fitness communities such as RunKeeper can enable mobilization in the offline world by providing a forum to organise activities in line with shared objectives. Studies show that digital communication technologies mobilise individuals who aim for common goals (Kraut, 2012). Whilst physically I run alone, I am acutely aware that people can watch my run online and because they can see the details and pace of my run I am motivated to perform at my best. This integration of the online and offline world has had a range of consequences on our relationships to place, intimacy, privacy, time and presence (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122). A run is no longer a private, solo activity performed on my personal running loop, but it is a public activity in a shared place, which can be viewed, supported or scrutinized by others. Even when it comes to race day the app allows supporters to watch live maps of the race to track my progress as I run.
Social media means the sharing of workouts is not exclusive to those in the online running community. I can invite friends to the RunKeeper app so they can follow my training progress, and they can then offer support or encouragement by commenting or liking the activity. Further, my running activities, achievements and plans can easily be shared to Facebook and Twitter.
Online fitness communities offer individuals many benefits, such as convenience and an increased network of like-minded individuals who share relevant information, while at the same time providing different levels of anonymity and engagement (Stark et al., 2016).
Social support is paramount for success in information sharing, and is defined as the “interpersonal exchange that can make an individual feel either loved, esteemed, accepted, valued or motivated” (Stark, et al., 2016). In the case of running, as it is often a solo activity, the social support offered by online communities has made the sport a lot more sustainable and enjoyable for a number of people.
From my experience there are numerous benefits of social media on running — the community, camaraderie, training tips and motivation and I have seen first hand how technology can enhance not only performance, but the experience of running. Social Media holds us accountable, but it also sometimes advertises unattainable success that can reduce confidence and motivation. Now that I am aware of how integrated my running is with the online realm, I realise that there are few areas of my life that now exist exclusively in the ‘offline’ realm as these two concepts have been significantly blurred.
Boyd, danah. (2012). Participating in the Always-On Lifestyle. In The Social Media Reader (pp. 71–76). New York University Press.
Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Social, Locative and Mobile Media Understanding Social Media (pp. 120 – 135). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Humphreys, L. (2013). Mobile social media: Future challenges and opportunities. Mobile Media & Communication, 1(1), 20-25.
Kraut, Robert E., et al. Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design. Mit Press, 2012.
Liao, T., & Humphreys, L. (2015). Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. New Media & Society,
Stahl, Jennifer. “The Technology That Created A New Generation Of Runners”. The Atlantic. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
Stark, H., Habib, A., & al Smadi, D. (2016). Network Engagement Behaviors of Three Online Diet and Exercise Programs. Proceedings from the Document Academy, 3(2), 17.
Wilken, R. (2014). Places nearby: Facebook as a location-based social media platform. New Media & Society, 16(7), 1087–1103.