The Conversation: Should We Make Civic Participation More Fun?
They call it gamification, the use of game techniques to enhance non-game tasks. And it's the new big idea. From technology to education to journalism, the concept of engaging audiences through competition and achievement has become a multi industry-spanning discussion. And given the global reach and tens of billions of dollars in revenue that computer games rack up each year, it makes sense to consider how these strategies can be applied to more than just thumb-twitching and finger-swiping time-wasters.
So what about civic participation?
Have you ever heard the term - well, acronym- TSTP? It stands for "the same twenty people." Attend a city council meeting and chances are the public comment period will be dominated by a familiar rogues gallery of discontented regulars. Many of the same folks who appeared two weeks earlier. And a month before that. To be fair, not all of them are there to complain. But there's little doubt that civic participation is dominated by a small (mostly older) group of citizens who are willing and able to invest their time in the process, enduring long, often boring, commission, council, and board meetings.
The question has always been: How can a community get more of its people involved - especially younger citizens?
The Atlantic Cities
writer Brandon R. Reynolds points to a company and program, MindMIxer,
that is attempting to address this very question... through gamification.
"MindMixer works as a virtual town hall, giving citizens a forum to launch ideas that others can comment on and vote up. But the feature that's made it a success is that all of these actions award points to the ideas and their creators. It’s a “wisdom of crowds” situation. The ideas are listed randomly, so as not to bias people coming onto the site. As high-scoring ideas filter out, they can then supplement and refine those kicked around at the physical meeting, thereby convincing more people to participate than might otherwise be inclined or able to."
Citizens and municipalities alike in San Francisco, Fargo, North Dakota, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama are using the Mindmixer template in a variety of interesting ways.
So, what do you think, could something like Mindmixer increase citizen participation in Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti? Is gamification worth our consideration? Concentrate
would love to read your thoughts...
You can read The Atlantic Cities'
Jeff Meyers is the managing editor of Concentrate
. He is also an award-winning film critic for Detroit's Metro Times