Community engagement has multiple facets, be it town halls, social media campaigns, or door-to-door consultations. And as cities transition into being Smart Cities, the ways that we engage with citizens are changing to be technology-centered. These citizen engagement technologies are creating a new category of technology: civic technology. Civic technology is exactly what the name suggests: technologies that focus on civic engagement. While civic technologies cover all manner of subject, there are three front-runners in the realm of neighborhood awareness and engagement.
Boston’s Chinatown went through an extensive master planning process in 2011. Understanding that the occupants of Chinatown come from a variety of different backgrounds, Participatory Chinatown is an online 3D immersive game where citizens experience what occupants of Chinatown experience as they navigate their neighborhood in either a single player format or a multi-player experience. As described by the site, “You assume the role of one of 15 virtual residents and you work to complete their assigned quest - finding a job, housing, or place to socialize. But look out! Sometimes language skills, income level, or other circumstances can make your task more challenging.” As you progress through the game, your decisions change the future of the neighborhood and are shared with governmental officiants.
Front Porch Forum is an online forum that’s prime purpose is to connect neighbors and build neighborhood communities. Moreover, by creating regional networks online, neighboring communities can connect and create even larger webs. These private forums, which members need to create a free profile to log in, are only available for those a part of that web plus their local governmental officials. These well-connected neighbors create friendlier communities with less crime, healthier residents, higher property values, decreased stigma against marginalized groups, and better service from local government and public utilities.
Community PlanIt gamifies civic engagement. The purpose of Community PlanIt is to make community planning and engagement inherently playful while giving the power to the community. You participate in little games, getting “cash” for completing tasks. You can then “donate” your cash to the projects that you want to be funded. All of the data that comes from the gameplay is owned by the community for their own community use. As stated by the creators, “Community planning is a collective process and all decisions made on behalf of the community should be collective.”