An “Augmented” Sense of Place? Pokémon Go, Accessibility, and Avenues of Marginalization

Authors: Lindy Westenhoff*, University of Tennessee, Annastashia Blesi, University of Tennessee
Topics: Disabilities, Cultural Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: pokemon go, augmented reality, placemaking, accessibility
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Pokémon Go locations known as “PokéStops” and “Pokémon Gyms” litter the virtual landscape, often chosen for their historical or cultural significance. In Knoxville, there are certain PokéStops that memorialize its problematic historical legacy, and unfortunately, often create a sense of normalcy around historical places of marginalization. Another type of marginalization, however, is seen in lack of accessibility for wheelchair users of the game, and the University of Tennessee is not wheelchair friendly.
This research, through the framework of toponymic analysis, examines two dimensions of how these PokéStops locations create frameworks of marginalization. First, I determined the location of all PokéStops on campus, took GPS points at their approximate locations, and conducted content analysis on problematic sites. These sites were then placed in GIS.
The second element to this research was conducted with the assistance and guidance of a wheelchair user at the University of Tennessee campus. Walking the campus, we stopped at each of the PokéStops sites that she could not access and were noted. A heat map was constructed from these data. Additional information such as the location of stairs, slow elevators, and unsafe places to cross the street were noted. This was placed in GIS and examined in conjunction with the previous map of marginalization.
These two “avenues” in the cultural landscape have serious impacts in the physical world; we have not begun to fully address and rectify the painful realities extant. That being said, a first step towards accountability is accomplishe

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