Treasure hunting in the 21st century: A decade of geocaching in Portugal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The present study looks at geocaching, a popular location-based mobile game, where the goal is to use a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), usually the Global Positioning System (GPS) to hide and seek containers placed anywhere in the field. People who engage in this activity, the geocachers, constitute a geographically distributed community that makes use of mobile and Web 2.0 technologies to coordinate and document their activities. Consequently, this treasure-hunting game, besides being a ludic activity, associated with a strong social networking element, also promotes new ways of exploring, interacting and communicating experiences and perceptions of the geographical environment where the activity occurs. The majority of existing literature analyzes geocaching from a social point of view, and little reference is made to the geographical context of this activity. The aim of this study is to fill that gap and thus characterize the phenomenon in terms of its temporal and spatial distribution. Observation instruments are proposed based on motorization indexes built from available data attributes. Such attributes reveal behaviors and patterns of geocachers (individuals) and geocaches (objects). The methodology is based on spatial data analysis; this can play an important role in exploring social phenomena that have a strong geographic component. Through the analysis of the freely available dataset that is voluntarily maintained by people engaged in the geocaching activity, a new dimension is explored: the spatial dimension. When, where and why this activity occurs was used as the framework for the analysis in this paper. The final output is an overall picture of the geocaching activity in mainland Portugal in this decade. In a later stage, environmental characteristics are used as possible explanations for observed patterns. It is shown, using spatial model specifications, that a small number of regressors are able to highlight important characteristics in the data. A final discussion underlines the potential of geocaching to encourage social interaction, and promote cultural and natural heritage; in short, it has some paramount attributes of an economically sound and sustainable sector.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication6th European Conference on Information Management and Evaluation, ECIME 2012
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Event6th European Conference on Information Management and Evaluation, ECIME 2012 - Cork, Ireland
Duration: 13 Sep 201214 Sep 2012

Publication series

Name6th European Conference on Information Management and Evaluation, ECIME 2012


Conference6th European Conference on Information Management and Evaluation, ECIME 2012


  • Geocaches
  • Geocaching
  • GPS
  • Spatial analyses
  • Web 2.0


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