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Eric Gordon

Professor and Director of Engagement Lab, Emerson College

About Eric

Gordon is an associate professor at Emerson College and a scholar/activist/practitioner working in the areas of civic media and design. His research explores the ways in which new technologies enable people or communities to interact with or bypass public sector institutions, from participating in formal processes to advocating for social change. He is particularly interested in design interventions that include play and games as a means of supporting or motivating civic action-taking. He partners with organizations ranging from municipal governments and community-based organizations to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF and the Red Cross. Gordon is the founder and executive director of the Engagement Lab, which is an applied research lab at Emerson College, and a faculty affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.


How Citizen Attachment to Neighborhoods Helps to Improve Municipal Services and Public Spaces

  • Daniel O'Brien
  • Dietmar Offenhuber
  • Jessica Baldwin-Philippi
  • Melissa Sands

In the News

"Civic Technology and the Pursuit of Happiness," Eric Gordon, Governing Magazine, May 3, 2016.
"Beyond Shovelware: Finding the Right Tools for Engagement," Eric Gordon, Governing Magazine, November 16, 2015.


"Why We Engage: How Theories of Human Behavior Contribute to Our Understanding of Civic Engagement in a Digital Era," (with Jesse Baldwin-Philippi and Marina Balestra), Berkman Center Research Publication, No. 21, 2013.

Presents a literature review exploring the intersection of theories of human behavior with the motivations for and benefits of engaging in civic life, bringing together literature from behavioral economics, sociology, psychology and communication studies to reveal how civic actors, institutions, and decision-making processes have been traditionally understood, and how emerging media tools and practices are forcing their reconsideration. Discusses how new technologies and corresponding social practices, from social media to mobile reporting, are providing different ways to record, share, and amplify that attentiveness.

Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice (edited with Paul Mihailidis) (MIT Press, 2016).

Frames an emerging field of study called Civic Media. With contributions from leading scholars and practitioners in the field, this volume explores the range of activities, methodologies and theoretical approaches that can be applied to the intentionally civic uses of digital media.

"Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World" (with Adriana de Souza e Silva) (Blackwell Publishers, 2011).

Looks at how location-awareness on mobile phones is creating new forms of urban practice – from playful movements motivated by location-based games, to the practice of mapping neighborhoods and reporting civic problems, what we call networked locality is becoming a fundamental part of being in a city.

"Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Lateral Trust and Reflection in Game-Based Public Participation" (with Jesse Baldwin-Philippi). International Journal of Communication 8 (2014): 759-786.

Engages in design-based research that assesses the affordances and effects of a specific digital platform meant to deepen civic engagement: an interactive online game for local engagement called Community PlanIt (CPI). Drawing on an analysis of game mechanics, in-game actions, and interviews and focus groups with players, we ask if and how CPI can move citizen participation beyond isolated transactions. We draw two conclusions: CPI creates and strengthens trust among individuals and local community groups that is linked to confidence in the process of engaging, and it encourages interactive practices of engagement that we define as civic learning.