I step into Copper Star Coffee on a Saturday mid-morning, walking through the large, open bay door (this coffeehouse is a converted, vintage gas station). With the bay door open, the inside becomes indistinguishable from the outside as the campfire smell of the fire from the “fire pit” outside wafts inside. Two young women are studying with laptop computers at one large table. An older man (perhaps in his 50s) at the counter playfully complains that his order is not being prepared — the employee forgot to place the order and there is light banter between the two. I place my order and say I’ll have what he’s having, adding “if my meal comes out first, he’s gonna’ be mad.” A young, disheveled couple are having their muffins and coffee at the couch; they are quiet, in a lovely sort of way. A woman in her 30s arrives with two kids, one in a stroller and the other fidgety. The traffic picks up and it is varied, with some just stopping in for a coffee and other staying longer to work or to visit. I consider Copper Star Coffee to be my neighborhood coffeehouse. It is halfway between my home and office and when I am there, I randomly run into people that I know but who I do not necessarily stay in touch with often or at all. If I showed up more often than once every other month, I feel pretty certain the staff would start to call me by name or at least say “hey, You…how have You been?”
In my next five posts, including this one, I will examine the data set of Foursquare user tips more closely. Since the data set for Copper Star Coffee and Jobot Coffee have a similar distribution, I will focus my analysis for this coffeehouse on user-generated photos for all five coffeehouses in general and Copper Star Coffee in particular.
Analysis of User-Generated Photographs
Foursquare allows users to check in to venues, leave tips, and submit photographs. It is probably not surprising to observe that the highest number reflects venue check ins and then, decreasingly, the number of unique visitors to a venue, and then the number of tips left and photos taken. In examining the last group, it is clear that, on average, more than three times as many photos are submitted than tips. For the five coffeehouses being explored in this mini-ethnography, Foursquare users have submitted 911 photographs but only 346 tips. Certainly, there are obvious reasons for this. However, when we consider the robust online communities associated with Flickr, Panoramio and other photo-sharing sites, it suggests that these user-generated images are, at least in part, intended to be shared and to convey information about their subjects (the coffeehouse and the photographer) and not just intended as a personal photo album.
Foursquare hosts a profile page for each venue and allows users to browse user-generated tips and photographs, among other information. I used this feature to access and examine the user-generated photos for Copper Star Coffee.
Using the same coding that was applied to user tips, I have coded the photos. Additionally, I have added a further distinction and divided them between “artistic” and “non artistic” images. Of course, this is a highly subjective distinction; and only mitigated by the fact that the same person (me) is evaluating all pictures and at one sitting.
The criteria I applied to this distinction was whether or not some additional effort was apparent in the composition of the photograph, in terms of lighting, angle, color, and arrangement. The essence of this distinction is that when a person aims for a more artistic image, they are investing themselves just a little more; they are, in a sense, bringing a greater intention to the task. Under this “gut rubric” I observed that, for this sample, approximately 30% of the 70 photos were artistic (i.e., more intentional) and that subject of these photos were predominately and evenly split between the setting and the food/beverages. Approximately 25% of these photo subjects were rendered artistically. Users also submitted photos of other people and none of these were rendered artistically. Finally, and more important to Foursquare (see image below), is that users submitted photos of the storefront and these were, on average, rendered artistically more often.
The following gallery illustrates samples of user-generated photo submitted to Foursquare for Copper Star Coffee. Images deemed more artistic are on the right and they are in the following subject order: ambiance, food/beverage, storefront, and unrelated.
• Copper Star Coffee on Tumblr
• Copper Star Coffee on Foursquare
• Copper Star Coffee on Yelp!
• Copper Star Coffee | official website
• Copper Star Coffee on Facebook
• Copper Star Coffee in the News | arizonacoffee.com
• Copper Star Coffee on YouTube
To compare the above chart data against the data for the other coffeehouses, click here. Click image to enlarge.