Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Lateral Trust and Reflection in Game-based Public Participation
Attempts to improve 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 article engages in design-based research that assesses the affordances and effects of one such platform: an interactive online game for local engagement called Community PlanIt (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.