We are a research lab focused on understanding the intersections of technology, play and civic life. We engage in two primary modes of research: Participatory Action Research where we design our own games and playful systems that we implement and evaluate in partnership with communities and organizations and Basic Research where we take on some of the fundamental questions facing the field, including youth and online civic participation, organizational capacity to work with technology, and how play factors into systems design. Our research is international, with active projects in the United States, Europe and Africa, and framed by the initiatives below.
Design Action Research for Government Project (DARG)
The Design Action Research for Government Project (DARG) is a partnership between EGL and the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston. DARG is a model for collaboration between government and universities, and its goal is to advance the capacity of local governments to foster civic engagement through technological innovations. Its mission is to provide a conceptual framework and evaluative capacity to guide city-level innovations that create opportunities for the public to meaningfully engage in the creation and study of public lThe project employs techniques of action and design research to source, create, and study civic technology projects in Boston. Undertaking a research program that goes beyond traditional measures of engagement, DARG also aims to improve the way research concerning civic media in governance takes place.
This initiative involves multiple ongoing research projects that explore transformations in the definition and qualities of citizenship in the context of new digital tools and practices, and focuses both on global and local citizenship in a digital era. In our international projects, we are building and researching games for international humanitarian organizations and programs dedicated to improving media literacy and activism. Our local projects explore concepts of play, connectivity, and attention in various spaces of civic life, from deliberative planning issues to electoral campaigns. The research is based on data gathered from the lab's affiliated games and tools as well as analysis of digital media used by governmental institutions.
Play and Civic Learning
This initiative looks at how games and play create productive informal learning environments for young people and adults. Focusing on a variety of games, and engaging in both qualitative and quantitative analysis of how people use playful civic tools and how play affects civic attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, we ask: What are the affordances of online games for civic learning and participation? How can games develop specific civic skills like deliberative capabilities and efficacy? Can they increase players' levels of engagement?
Youth and Civic Media
This project investigates how games and social media tools enable youth to engage in civic issues, and examines the impact of this engagement. Using game data across multiple platforms and numerous cities, we focus on areas of youth empowerment and connection to civic life, the benefits of intergenerational publics, and ways of framing civic issues for youth.
Gordon and Baldwin-Philippi (2013). "Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Lateral Trust and Reflection in Game-based Public Participation," working paper.
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.
Baldwin-Philippi, J. and Gordon E. (2013). "Designing Citizen Relationship Management Systems to Cultivate Good Civic Habits." Boston Area Research Initiative Policy Brief."
Gordon, E. (2013). "Beyond Participation: Designing for the Civic Web," Journal of Digital and Media Literacy, February 1.
Baldwin-Philippi, J. (2013) "Constructing skeptical citizens: How campaign microsites foster new ways of engaging political information and understanding citizenship" Journal of Information Technology & Politics. 10(3): 245-260.
Gupta, J., Bouvier, J., and Gordon, E. (2012). "Exploring New Modalities of Public Engagement." An Evaluation of Digital Gaming Platforms on Civic Capacity and Collective Action in the Boston Public School District.
Harry, D., Gordon, E., Schmandt, C. (2012). "Setting the Stage for Interaction: A Tablet Application to Augment Group Discussion in a Seminar Class." Proceedings of Community Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle, WA.
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.
Gordon, E., Schirra, S., and Hollander, J. (2011). "Immersive Planning: An Evaluative Framework for New Technologies in the Public Participation Process." Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 38 (3), 505-519.
Gordon, E. & Manosevitch, E. (2011) "Augmented Deliberation: Merging Physical and Virtual Interaction to Engage Communities in Urban Planning." 13 (1), 75-95.
Bachen, C., Raphael, C., Lynn, K., Baldwin-Philippi, J., McKee, K. (2010) "Games for Civic Learning: A Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research and Design" in Games and Culture. 5(2): 199-235.
Raphael, C., Bachen, C., Lynn, K., McKee, K., Philippi, J., (2008). "Civic Engagement, Pedagogy, and Information Technology on Web Sites for Youth." Political Communication. Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 290-310.
Gordon, E. & Koo, G. (2008) "Placeworlds: Using Virtual Worlds to Foster Civic Engagement." Space and Culture 11(3), 204-221.
Gordon, E. and de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.