The Civic Tripod for Mobile and Games:
Activism, Art and Learning

Released by IJLM/MIT press, May 3, 2012


Mobile games are quickly appearing in many dimensions of our lived environment, but few go beyond the small screen. Mobile games that are particularly innovative or locative are often low-profile, focusing on art, or civics at the neighborhood level. The big picture for such games has been hard to see. This report addresses the mobile frontier for civic games, which is fragmented across the applied domains of activism, art and learning. We argue that these three domains can and should speak jointly — an approach we call the civic “tripod.” Our site structure is part of its contribution, with a curated database of projects and interviews from the field. (Continue reading…)

Three Dimensions for Analysis

Following our introduction and overview, this report outlines the emerging field of mobile and pervasive games along three dimensions:

  1. civic learning
  2. play and performance
  3. social change

Focusing on real projects from the field, and interviews with key designers (see the drop-down at top), we aim to reveal key opportunities and constraints on the mobile frontier for civic games.

Curated and Written By

Susana RuizSusana Ruiz is a PhD candidate in Media arts and Practice at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a media artist, designer and scholar working in the intersections between art, game design, activism, documentary and ethics.

Benjamin StokesBenjamin Stokes is a civic media researcher and designer, focused on informal learning and social change. He is currently working on his PhD at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.


Jeff WatsonJeff Watson is a PhD candidate in Media Arts and Practice at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. His research focuses on investigating how mobile and social media can enable new forms of storytelling and participation.

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    As part of our release, we hope to connect this report to several practitioner communities — both for conferences (face-to-face) and online. Here are a few starting points for groups that are likely to discuss the “civic tripod” and related issues.

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    The authors would like to thank Intel Research/Tad Hirsch for their generous sponsorship of this report. Special thanks to Tara McPherson for her guidance and insight.