Geocaching – S. Ferris

I thought that taking a look at the spatial navigation of geocaching would be incredibly interesting because of how it differs from normal digital navigation. Most digital navigation has the goal of getting a human to a particular location with ease, comfort, and quickness. However, the geocaching app is very different. I bring this up because I actually had to do a geocaching project in my Mobile Communication class to look at digital mobilities.

On my way around town, I stopped at a geocache near my house. It was right outside the National Weather Service building on NCSU’s centennial campus. Or at least, it was supposed to be there. I got out of my truck and looked at the screen. It glowed, almost as if it knew my inevitable defeat in geocaching adventures. It was called “MSB-Hurriance”.

110 feet away.
53 feet away.
11 feet away.

Hint: fake rock.

11 feet away is as close at I got to this “mini” geocache. I put my phone in my pocket and checked under rocks, in trees, in a ditch, near a sign, and in a pipe sticking out of the ground. After half an hour of searching, the sun was going down. No fake rock anywhere to be found. Thinking it might be a play on words, I checked under anything remotely rock like, to no avail. All for a mini canister with peoples’ signatures on it. Arguably, a waste of time.

Geocaching is a different type of digital navigation because its goal is not to give you success, but to make you want success. The system’s goal is not completion of a task, but completion of an adventure.

One thing that is interesting about this digital navigation system is that it is used to navigate to geocaches that were placed as early the year 2000. That’s more than 20 years ago. The particular geocache I was after was placed in 2007. As far as I know, it’s long gone with no hope of being found. This furthers my point in saying that geocache navigation is adventure focused, not goal focused.

Another interesting aspect of this system is that it uses a lot of club-like lingo. So really, the digital navigation of not only the physical body, but of app-use itself is complicated to someone who is not  in the culture of geocaching. Descriptions of the geocache were “the magic school bus inside a hurricane”, “wonders of the world, petra, lighthouse of alexandria, and aurora polaris”. The attributes were things like “takes less than one hour” and “stealth required”. Buttons like “trackballs” and “waypoints” left me digitally and spatially confused.

The digital navigation involved in the geocache app is somewhat of an enigma. I’ll also never find that geocache!


The type of geocache.

The map location of the geocache.

The information board.