Public Article Review:
Gamified Participation: Investigating the Influence of Game Elements in Civic Engagement Tools

Article: Thiel, S. K. (2015, September). Gamified participation: investigating the influence of game elements in civic engagement tools. In Adjunct Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing and Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers (pp. 527-532). ACM.

By Sarah-Kristin Thiel

About the author:

Sarah-Kristin Thiel has a sound background in media informatics. She is a researcher in Telecommunication Research Center in Vienna, Austria. Her work is focused on wide range of topics like human-computer interaction, interaction design and technology. Her field of research also includes innovative concepts regarding the problems of citizen e-engagement.

Problem Statement:

The paper is based on an assumption that “Gamification Mechanism” can serve as an additional motivation factor to increase civic engagement policy formation. The paper is an attempt to identify unique  game elements that can add motivation for civic engagement.

Methodology:

The method used is based on two approaches:

1. A review of existing online participation platforms; identify the game elements used and relate these elements to the overall success of the platform.
2. Action-design research approach – this evaluates moblile participation prototypes of gaming elements and investigates the influence of such elements.

Expected Outcome:

The identification of gaming elements and relating them to existing game mechanics would generate positive outcomes in the level of participation in e-participation platforms.

Summary:

The article is mainly focused on the tools to increase civic participation in the government decision-making process. It further defines how and up to what level, the game elements like badges, reward system and opportunity for social interaction can be used to increase citizen participation. The author also states that she is trying to identify what specific game elements can be more useful in increasing the civic engagement.

There are concerns about the decline of citizen’s engagement in the government and politics. Thiel argues that main reason for the decline in the participation is the structure of the government. The recent technological advances especially tools like Web 2.0 and cellular technology can be useful tools for increasing civic participation.

New Engagement Methods: The web-based platforms like cell phone apps and government websites enables citizens to engage in the government processes. Unlike the traditional methods (town hall meetings, letter etc.), this new approach will save time and avoid location problems for the citizens.

Key Elements:

Thiel advocates that simply providing tools to citizens or making old practices web-based/mobile based won’t be an effective approach. There are three key elements that are required for maximizing civic engagement.

1- Encouragement of citizen engagement.
2- Availability of tools for the encouragement.
3- Time – Repetitive usage of the tools.

Thiel identifies that to encourage citizens for the use of new tools is the major challenge in e-participation. She quotes the resource model of Brady and identifies that to encourage citizens at least one of the tree aspects Skills, Interest, and Activation is required.

Thiel advocates that the design of engagement tool can increase interest.

The gamified tool can increase the activation of the citizens in the e-participation.

The paper argues that the use of tools for generating civic education will increase citizens’ understanding of their government’s role in politics. The abundance of tools can increase skills of the citizens.

The article quotes an optimistic argument that citizens will take the role of the government and government will be a consumer to whom citizens will provide information via a citizen-sourcing mechanism.

Analysis and evaluation of the article:

Sarah-Kristin Thiel has very well articulated the importance of the key elements that are required to increase the civic participation. She clearly defines the problem statement, scope, and expected outcome of the research.

Furthermore, she has identified three major aspects Skill, Interest, and Activation that are required to strengthen these elements. The paper advocates that one out of these three elements is necessity to spark the motivation for engagement. Does that mean that focusing on any of these three aspects can generate positive results? – The paper does not answer that question.

I believe that author should have been more specific on Brady’s Resource Model. She mentions that Gamified Mechanism can serve as an additional motivation factor in increasing civic engagement. When we look at the recent trends, it is not an assumption anymore. Ref: (Chou, 2015 P258- 260)

Thiel discusses the findings of Baykurt’s research on a web-based game which was used to raise local issues.  She comes to a conclusion that when citizens can track the progress of solutions aimed to fix their reported issues, they are more likely to be engaged. However she does not provide any framework to address that.

She also states the importance of minimizing the time needed for the citizen engagement. Because citizen engagment contradicts with people’s daily routine and lifestyle. I personally find that it is in contrast to the third key element, which is Time. The author does not state any mechanism that how to increase participation when repetitive engagement is required.

Conclusion:

Overall, the article is very well designed, clear and concise in the scope and presents strong evidence on identifying tools that are required for  civic participation. The paper follows a clear logical flow and is very well drafted. The use of simplified language could have added additional value to the contents of the paper.

Ref: Chou,Yu-Kai Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards 2014- 2015

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