Quoting: G. SGUEO, Gamification, Participatory Democracy and Engaged Public(S) (September 29, 2017). University of Vienna “Activation – Self-Management – Overload Political Participation beyond the Post-democratic Turn”. Available at SSNR Papers
The use of game-design elements – a phenomenon known as ‘gamification’ – features prominently within on-going processes of innovation of governance. According to the research and advisory firm Gartner, 2,000 of the top public organizations worldwide have at least one gamified application and/or process in place. Examples of gamification in public governance include “Run that town” (ideated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to raise citizens’ awareness of the national census), the “Red Balloon Challenge” (initiated by the United States’ Defence Advanced Research Project Agency to test systems for improving cooperation among soldiers, experts and diplomatic officers overseas), and “Manor Labs” (a web platform that awarded “Innobucks”, a type of virtual commodity, to residents of the City of Manor, in Texas, for proposing ideas related with urban development). The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to determine who is actually participating in public policy processes via gamification; second, to weigh the impact that the public(s) engaged by gamification has on democratic governance; third, to assess the societal environment within which gamification might flourish or establish plausibly. The paper is structured in four sections. The first section of the paper sets off by briefly introducing and discussing the decreased interest in political and civic life in Western democracies. It then describes the use of gamified strategies from public administrations as an attempt to foster civic engagement. The second section of the paper attempts to classify and describe the three typologies of citizens that are (re-)activated by gamified public policies: self-conscious public (‘policy-entrepreneurs’), citizens who use the gamified mechanisms to leverage policy-making in their favour (‘citizen-lobbyists’), and ‘citizensactivists’ – i.e. socially engaged citizens advocating towards public decision makers. The third section of the paper analyses the potential impact that public(s) participating in gamified policymaking have on democratic governance. This impact is assessed through three conceptual tools: ‘prosumerism’ (prosumers of public policies contribute to the “creation” of policies, the same policies which effects will affect their individual spheres), ‘collective intelligence’ (the one that develops from the aggregation of a large groups’ preferences), and network theory (i.e. networks of cooperation, of collaboration, and of innovation). The fourth section of this paper briefly examines the societal environments that may offer the best opportunity to establish gamification as a practice in policy-making. The paper argues that public regulators experimenting with gamification should nurture diversified audiences, or ‘mini publics’. At the same time, public regulators should be prepared to face three challenges brought by gamified governance, namely: the dominance of elites, increased costs and the public perception.