URBAN GEOCACHING: WHAT HAPPENED IN LISBON DURING THE LAST DECADE?
Keywords: Geocaching, Urban environments, Recreational activities, Spatial Analysis, GIS
Abstract. Created in 2000 in the United States of America, Geocaching has become a major phenomenon all around the world, counting actually with millions of Geocaches (or caches) that work as a recreational motivation for millions of users, called Geocachers. During the last 30 days over 5,000,000 new logs have been submitted worldwide, disseminating individual experiences, motivations, emotions and photos through the official Geocaching website (www.geocaching.com), and several official or informal national web forums. The activity itself can be compared with modern treasure hunting that uses handheld GPS, Smartphones or Tablets, WEB 2.0, wiki features and technologies to keep Geocachers engaged with their activity, in a strong social-network. All these characteristics make Geocaching an activity with a strong geographic component that deals closely with the surrounding environment where each cache has been hidden. From previous work, significance correlation has been found regarding hides and natural/rural environments, but metropolitan and urban areas like Lisbon municipality (that holds 3.23% of the total 27534 Portuguese caches), still registers the higher density of Geocaches, and logs numbers. Lacking "natural/rural" environment, Geocaching in cities tend to happen in symbolic areas, like public parks and places, sightseeing spots and historical neighborhoods. The present study looks to Geocaching within the city of Lisbon, in order to understand how it works, and if this activity reflects the city itself, promoting its image and cultural heritage. From a freely available dataset that includes all Geocaches that have been placed in Lisbon since February 2001, spatial analysis has been conducted, showing the informal preferences of this activity. Results show a non-random distribution of caches within the study area, similar to the land use distribution. Preferable locations tend to be in iconic places of the city, usually close to the Tagus River, that concentrates 25% of the total caches. Since most of these places are known to be touristic destinations, the TOP15 logged Caches were also analyzed regarding their description and logs in order to understand if Geocaching reflects tourism and if it works as a tourist promotion tool within urban environments. Final results also reflect the Geocaching performance and major trends within urban environments providing new insights regarding this activity impacts and implications.