Gordon, E. and de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
The web is all around us. The use of mobile phones and location-aware technologies and the ability for people to browse information from wherever they may be, means that physical location has become an important factor in how data is categorized and accessed. This book provides an introduction to the new theory of Net Locality, an emerging form of location awareness, a concept becoming central to cultural production and everyday life. Net locality is crucial to all aspects of digital media, from mobile phones to online maps to location-based social networks and games. This book describes what happens to individuals and societies when virtually everything is located or locatable and what they can do with this awareness, from organizing impromptu political protests to finding nearby friends and resources. It also covers the dangers these technologies and practices present, from challenging traditional notions of privacy to the reorganization of urban public space, whilst outlining the opportunities and the potential for pro-social developments.
Gordon, E. (2010). The Urban Spectator: American Concept-cities From Kodak to Google. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth University Press.
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.
Gordon, E. and Baldwin-Philippi, J. (working paper). “Playful Civic Learning: Creating Opportunities for Local Engagement Through Digital Games”
Traditional attempts at improving participation in civic life often focus on increasing the number of citizens engaged rather than improving the quality of engagement. As digital interventions flood the civic space, investigating the mediating interfaces that provide opportunities for deeper engagement becomes necessary. This paper engages in design-based research that assesses the affordances and effects of one such platform: an interactive online game for local engagement called CPI. Drawing on an analysis of game mechanics, in-game actions, and interviews and focus groups with players, we ask if and how CPI can move citizen participation beyond isolated transactions. We draw two conclusions: CPI creates and strengthens trust among individuals and local community groups that is linked to confidence in the process of engaging, and it encourages interactive practices of engagement that we define as civic learning.
Gordon, E. (2013). “Beyond Participation: Designing for the Civic Web,” Journal of Digital and Media Literacy, February 1.
The web and mobile phones have transformed how people engage in local civic life. Information is more accessible and opportunities to participate are more apparent. But as traditional indicators of civic engagement are in decline, including voting and meeting attendance, what I call the civic web is in need of design. The civic web is the aggregate of tools and processes through which civic content gets created and shared online. It is a normative construct that establishes learning as central to online civic participation. Digital connectivity does not equate to good civic learning. This article suggests ways in which governments and civic organizations can design engagement processes that take advantage of the affordances of the civic web in order to cultivate meaningful digital citizenship.
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.
During the summer and fall of 2011 the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Office of Accountability began a collaboration with the Engagement Game Lab (EGL) at Emerson College in Boston to explore new mechanisms for public engagement and deliberation on K–12 school reform. Facilitated by the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the partnership designed and convened a multi-week digital and in-person engagement initiative called Community PlanIt (CPI). Through funding from the Kettering Foundation, Public Agenda conducted an evaluation of the BPS and CPI pilot. This report covers Community PlanIt, which spanned the four weeks from September 20 to October 20; the face-to-face deliberative Town Hall, which took place on October 20; and the outcomes of these two experiences.
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.
We present a tablet-based system to collaboratively track discussion topics and ideas in a seminar-style discussion classroom. Each student uses his or her own tablet to share text ideas in a synchronized, visual environment. The system is designed to promote diverse participation and increase engagement. Our findings are based on observations of twelve class sessions and interviews with participating students. Instead of simply introducing an additional text-based communication channel into the classroom, we find that the system creates a new “stage” (in the Goffman sense) on which students could perform in ways that the main spoken stage could not support. This stage coexists with spoken communication, and augments how students attend to the material and each other. We conclude that spoken participation alone poses barriers for some participants and the addition of a non-oral, text-based stage can help establish equitable and engaging discussions in the class.
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.
Digital role-playing games can be an effective tool for augmenting deliberation in a community planning process. We study the implementation of a game called Participatory Chinatown—a 3D, multiplayer game designed to be played in the shared physical space of a master planning meeting in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. This research examines how role-play can affect the way people understand local issues and engage with their community. It also points to the challenges of extending player empathy from the magic circle of gameplay to the larger context of a community meeting. It suggests that emotional engagement with character and or space does not easily translate into a rational decision-making process. The authors make suggestions for future research that might address this challenge.
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.
Public participation is an important part of the urban planning process. But too often the goals of this participation are not clearly articulated and, as a result, the platforms for participation created with digital technologies are often poorly designed or simply lack clarity. Immersive planning is a conceptual model with which to conceive of the process of public participation that focuses on the depth and breadth of user experience. Borrowing from literature on games and virtual environments, this article frames recent, technologically aided, approaches to public participation within three categories of immersion: challenge-based, sensory, and imaginative. GIS, CAD, PSS, virtual environments, and digital games are all methods of obtaining user immersion in one or a combination of these categories. This article provides a review of the foundational literature and influential projects in this area, and by framing them within the model of immersive planning, seeks to connect these efforts to provide a clearer path forward in employing new technologies for public participation.
Gordon, E. & Manosevitch, E. (2011) “Augmented Deliberation: Merging Physical and Virtual Interaction to Engage Communities in Urban Planning.” 13 (1), 75–95.
The goal of this article is two-fold: to introduce the concept of augmented deliberation and to demonstrate its implementation in a pilot project. We look specifically at a project called Hub2. This community engagement project employed the online virtual world Second Life to augment community deliberation in the planning of a neighborhood park in Boston, Massachusetts. The local community was invited to gather in a physical space and a virtual space simultaneously, and a physical moderator and virtual designer orchestrated deliberation. This project demonstrates the design values central to augmented deliberation: (1) it is a multimedia group communication process which balances the specific affordances of digital technologies with the established qualities of face-to-face group deliberation; (2) it emphasizes the power of experience; and (3) it promotes sustainability and reproducibility through digital tracking. Augmented deliberation, when properly designed, provides a powerful mechanism to enable productive and meaningful public deliberation. The article concludes with directions for further research.
Gordon, E. & Koo, G. (2008) “Placeworlds: Using Virtual Worlds to Foster Civic Engagement.” Space and Culture 11(3), 204–221.
This article describes a pilot program in Boston, Massachusetts, that incorporates virtual worlds into the urban planning process. The authors argue that the immersive, playful, and social qualities of the virtual world Second Life are uniquely appropriate to engage people in dialogue about their communities. By sharing experiences of a planned space and having the opportunity to deliberate over, comment on, and alter that space, previously disempowered individuals are able to form politically powerful groups. This takes place through the formation of what the authors call placeworlds, a subgroup of the Habermasian lifeworld that is organized around the shared understanding of place. Second Life and similar virtual world platforms offer profound possibilities for how local communities can imagine themselves as political actors in the face of global and homogenizing political systems.