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CENS Technical Seminar Series

Direct Action Games to Restructure Civic Participation

Invited Speaker: Benjamin Stokes
Date: January 7, 2011
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Venue: Commons 4760 Boelter Hall


The mobile revolution promises new tools for civic life – from how we volunteer to where we fundraise. Yet sustaining participation is difficult, and many traditional civic acts like voting are in decline. How do we go beyond designing tools, to designing structures of civic participation?

Some of the most intriguing design methods are emerging from the young field of game design, which merges technical and social engineering. This talk will consider “direct action games” that immediately affect real-world problems of social justice. Such games are nascent, but are expanding alongside mobile platforms. Initial examples will be drawn from projects ranging from the Peter Packet Challenge, to VozMob and Akoha. Preliminary strategies and ethics will be discussed.


Benjamin Stokes is a co-founder of Games for Change, the branch of the serious games movement focused on civic engagement and political change. More recently, Benjamin was an education program officer at the MacArthur Foundation in their $50 million portfolio on Digital Media and Learning. He is now completing his PhD at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.