Democracy Revolution: How Mobile Game Apps are Changing Community Planning
While a glut of social media applications, videogames, and online news sites dominate the average American's smartphone activities, a 2013 applied research paper from Georgia Tech argues the growing obsession with mobile devices also has the ability to change the way in which cities are built. In "The Combination of Mobile Applications and Games as a New Method for Community Engagement," LiWei Xie (MCRP '13) considers the power of mobile apps to transform the community planning process.
In order to assess the potential of mobile applications to facilitate a dialogue between planners and the community, Xie identified five objectives of citizen participation: information exchange, education, support building, decision-making supplement, and representational input. Although the more common community feedback methods such as neighborhood meetings, citizen advisory groups, task forces, and group surveys managed to meet all five objectives when completed in conjunction with one another, only mobile applications and online forums achieved all objectives in one fell swoop. Despite the potential of apps to more concisely meet citizen participation objectives, the design of mobile apps for planning-specific functions has received scant attention in planning schools .
To overcome this void, Xie produced a conceptual app design for an existing board game called Race to School. The game, originally developed by Dr. Nisha Botchwey of Georgia Tech's School of City and Regional Planning, promotes physical activity in children and healthy neighborhoods through a sequence of educational lessons, scavenger hunts, and game playing. Through the conversion of the board game to a voluntarily downloaded app on a mobile device, data generated by students could be saved and utilized by cities – cutting through the extensive red tape often associated with collecting data from minors. While Xie does not believe that mobile apps can replace all forms of planning-related citizen participation, the opportunity to engage often overlooked population segments such as elementary school students has the potential to expand which groups are included in the planning process.
LiWei Xie is a 2013 graduate of Georgia Tech's School of City and Regional Planning, and advising for her applied research paper was conducted by Associate Professor Nisha Botchwey.
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