Beyond Participation: Transforming Local Civic Engagement Through an Online Game
Eric Gordon, Berkman Center Fellow
March 5, 12:30pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor
This event is now at capacity.
The problem of civic engagement is often understood as a lack of participation. People do not show up to meetings, they do not engage in their civic institutions or communicate with decision-makers. Engagement strategies often involve a lot of bean counting, where the quantity of people participating is more important than the quality of participation created. The Engagement Game Lab has developed an online game called Community PlanIt to explore how game mechanics and social interaction can move local civic processes beyond transactive participation towards civic learning – or a sustained, reflective mode of civic interaction. Over the past year, Community PlanIt has been played in six distinct planning processes ranging from urban planning in Detroit and Philadelphia to education planning in Boston. This talk explores the unique affordances of Community PlanIt for building social trust, engaging youth in civic life, and developing shared local narratives. It will address the complexities of implementing an online game within official public feedback processes, including dealing with positive and negative perceptions of games, assuring a commitment from organizations and decision-makers to being responsive to an online social network, and cultivating trust and civility amongst players and between players and decision-makers. Ultimately, Community PlanIt serves as a multi-site case study in the design of playful, place-specific and networked local engagement that should inform how government thinks about community participation.
Eric Gordon is a researcher and game designer who investigates how games and social media can enhance civic learning and local engagement. He is the director of the Engagement Game Lab and an associate professor in the department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College. He is the co-author (with Adriana de Souza e Silva) of the book Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World (2011) and the author of the Urban Spectator: American Concept-cities from Kodak to Google (2010). While at the Berkman Center, Eric will study the impact of game-based learning on local civic engagement and explore how new technologies can enhance citizenship and collective efficacy.