Research Areas

Play and Engagement

What role can games play in serious work? Can games provide meaningful structures for activism, civic participation, and civic learning? Are there particular designs and modalities of games that work better in different situations or with different populations? And what are the political and institutional tensions inherent in making and playing games? Our research focuses on games in civic contexts, primarily in partnership with government or NGOs working to enhance democratic participation, community cohesion or civic action-taking.

Faculty: Eric Gordon, Sarah Zaidan, Miranda Banks

For a complete list of publications, look in the approrpriate faculty's CV in the people section of our website.

Gordon, E., and Baldwin-Philippi, J. (2014). "Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Lateral Trust and Reflection in Game-based Public Participation" International Journal Of Communication, 8, 28.

Gordon, E., and Schirra, S (2013). "Game-based Civic Learning in Public Participation Processes," On Media Literacy, eds. Paul Milhailidis and Belinha de Abreau. New York: Routledge.

Gordon, E. and Schirra, S. (2011) "Playing with Empathy: Digital Role-Playing Games in Public Meetings."Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Communities & Technologies, Brisbane, Australia.

Civic Media

Civic media is media with the intentionality of public good or instrumental benefit to a group beyond the individuals or entities involved in its production. People make or use civic media when they seek to impact something or someone; it is not an end in itself. Our research explores the following questions: What are the conditions under which civic media are made? What forms do civic media take? What are the effective ways of measuring their impact? And what are the unique relationships between local and global, self and other, space and place, that are forged in civic mediated practice?

Faculty: Eric Gordon, Paul Mihailidis, Vincent Raynauld, Russell Newman, Catherine D'Ignazio

For a complete list of publications, look in the approrpriate faculty's CV in the people section of our website.

Gordon, E., & Baldwin-Philippi, J. (2014). "Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Lateral Trust and Reflection in Game-based Public Participation" International Journal Of Communication, 8, 28.

Gordon, Eric and Baldwin-Philippi, Jessica and Balestra, Martina. "Why We Engage: How Theories of Human Behavior Contribute to Our Understanding of Civic Engagement in a Digital Era" (October 22, 2013). Berkman Center Research Publication No. 21.

Gordon, E and Jessica Baldwin-Philippi. "Making a Habit Out of Engagement: How the Culture of Open Data Is Reframing Civic Life" in Code for America Open Data Anthology. O'Reilly Media.

Gordon, E. & Manosevitch, E. (2011) "Augmented Deliberation: Merging Physical and Virtual Interaction to Engage Communities in Urban Planning." 13 (1), 75-95.

Digital and Media Literacy

What are the competencies that people need to effectively use and engage with media in daily life? How can formal and informal pedagogies support active and inclusive participation in communities? Our Research in this area explores the role of media literacy in building skills and dispositions for young people to participate in networked communities around news, politics, arts, advocacy, etc. We ask what approaches to teaching and learning can best facilitate the acquisition of media literate competencies, and how they can be used for expression and engagement in daily life.

Faculty: Paul Mihailidis, Miranda Banks, Vincent Reynauld

For a complete list of publications, look in the approrpriate faculty's CV in the people section of our website.

Mihailidis, P. (2014)."The Civic-Social Media Disconnect: Exploring Perceptions of Social Media for Engagement in the Daily Life of College Students." Information, Communication & Society, 17(9), 1-13.

Mihailidis, P. (2014)."A Tethered Generation: Exploring the Role of Mobile Phones in the Daily Life of Young People." Mobile Media & Communication, 2(1), 58-72.

Mihailidis, P. & Thevenin, B. (2013)."Media Literacy as a Core Competency for Engaged Citizenship in Participatory Democracy." American Behavioral Scientist, 57(9), 1611-1622.

Mihailidis, P. (2011)."(Re)Mix, (Re)Purpose, (Re)Learn: Using Participatory Tools for Media Literacy Learning Outcomes in the Classroom."Action in Teacher Education, 33/2, 1-12.

Mihailidis, P. (2009)."Beyond Cynicism: Media Education and Civic Learning Outcomes in the University"International Journal of Media and Learning 1/3, 1-13.


Mihailidis, P. (2014). Media Literacy and The Emerging Citizen: Youth, Engagement and Participation in Digital Culture. Peter Lang Publishers.

At the heart of this book are the opportunities that social media platforms and mobile technologies provide for communication, connectivity, and community.

Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen is about enhancing engagement in a digital media culture, and the models that educators, parents, and policy makers can utilize to place a media savvy citizenry into positions of purpose, responsibility, and power.

Two specific challenges are at the core of this book's argument that media literacy is the path towards more active and robust civic engagement in the 21st Century.

  1. How can media literacy enable core competencies for value-driven, diverse and robust digital media use?
  2. How can media literacy enable a more civic-minded participatory culture?

Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen is a manifesto for media literacy education that is at the center of how young people understand the influence social media have on their personal and public lives and use digital media for more inclusive lifestyles. The opportunity to reframe the debate on what an engaged citizen is and on how media literacy education can stand to empower the next generation of leaders is apparent and glaring. This book is driven by the potential of networked communities to build new collaborative participation across all facets of society (Neal 2012). Clay Shirky (2010) sees this as the true opportunity for collaboration today: “People want to do something to make the world a better place. They will help when they are invited to.” (p. 17). Media literacy can help activate that human element by harnessing the true power each individual has to add value in society today. And we are not that far away.

S. De Abreu, B. and Mihailidis, P. (2013). Media Literacy Education in Action: Theoretical and Pedagogical Perspectives. Routledge.

Media Literacy Education in Action brings together the fieldœs leading scholars and advocates to present a snapshot of the theoretical and conceptual development of media literacy education–what has influenced it, current trends, and ideas about its future.

Featuring a mix of perspectives, it explores the divergent ways in which media literacy is connected to educational communities and academic areas in both local and global contexts. The volume is structured around seven themes:

  • Media Literacy: Past and Present
  • Digital Media and Learning
  • Global Perspectives
  • Public Spaces
  • Civic Activism
  • Policy and Digital Citizenship
  • Future Connections

Compelling, well-organized, and authoritative, this one-stop resource for understanding more about media literacy education across disciplines, cultures, and divides offers the fresh outlook that is needed at this point in time. Globally, as more and more states and countries call for media literacy education more explicitly in their curriculum guidelines, educators are being required to teach media literacy in both elementary and secondary education contexts.

Gordon, E. and de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Net Locality analyzes the effect on individuals and societies when everything is located or locatable.

  • Describes net locality as an emerging form of location awareness central to all aspects of digital media, from mobile phones, to Google Maps, to location-based social networks and games, such as Foursquare and Facebook.
  • Warns of the threats these technologies, such as data surveillance, present to our sense of privacy, while also outlining the opportunities for pro-social developments.
  • Provides a theory of the web in the context of the history of emerging technologies, from GeoCities to GPS, Wi-Fi, Wiki Me, and Google Android.

Mihailidis, P. (2011). News Literacy: Global Perspectives for the Newsroom and the Classroom. Peter Lang Publishers.

News Literacy gathers leading scholars, educators, and media makers to explore new approaches to thinking about, examining, and evaluating news media and civic engagement around these fundamental questions: What are the most pressing issues in news, media, and culture in a converged, digital, and global media age?

What are the best educational practices to foster media literate understanding, engagement, and expression across borders, across cultures, and across divides? The book will prepare future media practitioners (and citizens) to embrace new media environments that can simultaneously empower their craft and their civic voice. This means teaching not only about the various ways new technologies are used and to what end, but also how these tools can enable better engagement with audiences, more dialog with communities, and a more nuanced understanding of how information is processed through new media platforms. Such an approach can empower a more active, collaborative, and empowered information landscape for the digital age.

Gordon, E. (2010). The Urban Spectator: American Concept-cities From Kodak to Google. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth University Press.

The Urban Spectator is a lively and utterly fascinating exploration of the ways in which technologies have influenced our collective conception of the American city, as well as our relationship with urban space and architecture.

Eric Gordon argues that the city, developing late and in conjunction with a range of modern media, produced a particular way of seeing what he labels “possessive spectatorship.” Lacking the historical rootedness of European cities, the American city was open to individual interpretation, definition, and ownership. Beginning with the White City of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the efforts to commodify the concept city through photography, Gordon shows how the American city has always been a product of the collision between the dominant conceptualization, shaped by contemporary media, and the spectator. From the viewfinder of the Kodak camera, to the public display of early cinema, to the speculative desire of network radio, all the way to machine-age utopianism, nostalgia, and America's “rerun” culture, the city is an amalgam of practice and concept. All of this comes to a head in the “database city” where urban spectatorship takes on the characteristics of a Google search. In new urban developments, the spectator searches, retrieves, and combines urban references to construct each experience of the city.