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"Fixing" geotags

Can UI-based interventions increase intentionality and psychological ownership of places among social media users?

The subject of geotagging/location-sharing has been an ongoing conversation in the outdoor industry. There are compelling arguments on both sides, and it remains a complex and evolving issue.

Overtourism, over-taxed infrastructure, and under-funded parks are real issues. However, I don't think we can fix these things with knee-jerk reactions or by shaming people on social media for minor (or nonexistent) outdoor infractions. There are people that might not know any better, and are likely willing to learn if approached with a positive mindset.

Similarly, I don't think that simply not geotagging your Instagram photos is going to be the solution. It's also quite an exclusionary method. We've seen an immense increase in folks interested in visiting the outdoors, and we can't place all of the blame (or solutions) at the feet of social media. Addressing environmental stewardship, respect, and crowds will take a complex and multi-faceted approach.

I wanted to experiment with UI-based interventions that might increase intentionality and potentially help drive psychological ownership of places -- leading to better stewardship. There is some evidence that incremental strategies around psychological ownership can improve the way that visitors treat outdoor places. The research is fairly cursory, but provides an interesting direction to pursue.

What I wanted to do:

  • Inform about potential negative impacts
  • Force the user to consider their role in these impacts
  • Use language to drive psychological ownership
  • Still provide the location that the user is looking for

The approach

After playing with a few ideas, I decided that an ideal moment to intervene is when a user taps the location tag on a photo. Rather than focusing on speed (and taking the user directly to a location-focused page), what if we introduced an intermediate state that allowed use to inform in a positive way?

Quick wire. Tapping location from photo detail links to new screen.
A bit more polish.

Eventually, I made a little prototype interaction using Webflow to illustrate how this interaction might feel. I was able to quickly put together an example only using Webflow animations. And, I didn't have to write any code! It's not the prettiest or most polished thing out there, but I think it gets the point across. You can play with the live example here.


Overall, I had fun with this one. It's something that I'd consider adding to a mobile app in the context of a photo feed, or anywhere photos are being shared. The solution I've provided is pretty outdoors-focused, but I'm sure you could translate it for a more general travel/tourism audience as well.

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I'm Kyle Frost. Join 65,000 readers enjoying Here & There, my weekly outdoor/travel newsletter with nuance, questions, and complexity.