Harvard is the first university to use foursquare to help students explore their campus and surrounding places of interest.

Harvard University today (Jan. 12) announced its presence on foursquare, a new location-based, mobile social networking application. The service, which is accessible from smartphones and other mobile devices, enables students and visitors to explore the campus and surrounding neighborhoods while sharing information about their favorite places.

In addition to creating an up-to-date online rating guide of stores, restaurants, businesses, and other venues throughout Harvard Square, foursquare users can also employ the application as a game, in which they earn points, and ultimately acquire coveted foursquare “badges.” Harvard is the first university to use foursquare to help students explore their campus and surrounding places of interest. Users who have visited a predetermined number of sites on the campus will be awarded the Harvard Yard badge on their foursquare profiles.

The application turns social networking into a running competition by creating incentives for users to explore neighborhoods, discover new venues, and make recommendations to the entire foursquare network. Individuals who download the free app can “check in” using their phones from different venues to earn badges and points. Updates and posted tips and suggestions can be shared across other social networking and microblogging sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

One popular element of foursquare is its competition to become “mayor” of various locations and venues. If you check in more frequently than anyone else, you claim bragging rights as the “mayor” of that venue. You can also earn extra points by being the first to post a visit to a new location, by making frequent visits, or by sharing new information about locations or activities.

“Harvard is more than classrooms and buildings. It is an interconnected community of people, ideas, and experiences, and we are actively pursuing ways to enhance those connections,” said Perry Hewitt, director of digital communications and communications services for Harvard Public Affairs and Communications. “We believe that Harvard’s participation will allow our community to engage with friends, professors, and colleagues in new ways. We also hope visitors and neighbors will benefit from the platform as it grows through use.”

“Universities are places of such incredible talent and energy,” said Dennis Crowley, foursquare’s co-founder. “And that is why we’re excited about Harvard’s participation and the potential for foursquare to bring people together.”

See more information on foursquare or Harvard’s page on foursquare.

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