The serious potential of fun games: a new model for public engagement

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Barchers, Camille Victoria
French, Steven P.
Stiftel, Bruce
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This dissertation examines the relationship between game playing and social learning in public participation activities and whether and to what extent participants demonstrate enhanced collaborative decision making (collective intelligence) as a result. This research highlights the potential of Internet Communication Technology (ICT) to advance public engagement activities and demonstrates how planners might practically and intentionally design small group activities to promote collaborative processes. This dissertation used an experimental research design to test the extent to which an online role-playing game created opportunities for participants to experience social learning and whether or not this intervention lead to differences in collective intelligence between control and treatment groups. Additional analysis was conducted to measure the extent to which reported social learning and collective intelligence influenced planning outcomes such as commitment, creativity and consensus. Results of this work clarify the importance of social learning as a variable of interest for planners. Treatment groups demonstrated more equal turn-taking in review of descriptive statistics and social learning was found to be positively correlated with perceptions of consensus. This research also provides new perspectives on public participation and civic engagement. The impacts of this research are important not only for planners, but for all institutions that rely on collaborative decision making and need to understand group processes.
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