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Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice (MIT Press, 2016)

Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice (MIT Press, 2016)

edited by Eric Gordon and Paul Mihailidis *

Countless people around the world harness the affordances of digital media to enable democratic participation, coordinate disaster relief, campaign for policy change, and strengthen local advocacy groups. The world watched as activists used social media to organize protests during the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution. Many governmental and community organizations changed their mission and function as they adopted new digital tools and practices. This book examines the use of "civic media" -- the technologies, designs, and practices that support connection through common purpose in civic, political, and social life. Scholars from a range of disciplines and practitioners from a variety of organizations offer analyses and case studies that explore the theory and practice of civic media.

The contributors set out the conceptual context for the intersection of civic and media; examine the pressure to innovate and the sustainability of innovation; explore play as a template for resistance; look at civic education; discuss media-enabled activism in communities; and consider methods and funding for civic media research. The case studies that round out each section range from a "debt resistance" movement to government service delivery ratings to the "It Gets Better" campaign aimed at combating suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth. The book offers a valuable interdisciplinary dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of the increasingly influential space of civic media.

Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World (Blackwell, 2011)

Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World (Blackwell, 2011)

written by Eric Gordon and Adriana de souza e silva *

The first book to provide an introduction to the new theory of Net Locality and the profound effect on individuals and societies when everything is located or locatable.

  • Describes net locality as an emerging form of location awareness central to all aspects of digital media, from mobile phones, to Google Maps, to location-based social networks and games, such as Foursquare and Facebook.
  • Warns of the threats these technologies, such as data surveillance, present to our sense of privacy, while also outlining the opportunities for pro-social developments.
  • Provides a theory of the web in the context of the history of emerging technologies, from GeoCities to GPS, Wi-Fi, Wiki Me, and Google Android.
The Urban Spectator: American Concept-cities From Kodak to Google (Dartmouth, 2010)

The Urban Spectator: American Concept-cities From Kodak to Google (Dartmouth, 2010)

written by ERic Gordon

The Urban Spectator is a lively and utterly fascinating exploration of the ways in which technologies have influenced our collective conception of the American city, as well as our relationship with urban space and architecture. Eric Gordon argues that the city, developing late and in conjunction with a range of modern media, produced a particular way of seeing—what he labels “possessive spectatorship.” 
Lacking the historical rootedness of European cities, the American city was open to individual interpretation, definition, and ownership. Beginning with the White City of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the efforts to commodify the concept city through photography, Gordon shows how the American city has always been a product of the collision between the dominant conceptualization, shaped by contemporary media, and the spectator. From the viewfinder of the Kodak camera, to the public display of early cinema, to the speculative desire of network radio, all the way to machine-age utopianism, nostalgia, and America’s “rerun” culture, the city is an amalgam of practice and concept. All of this comes to a head in the “database city” where urban spectatorship takes on the characteristics of a Google search. In new urban developments, the spectator searches, retrieves, and combines urban references to construct each experience of the city.



Selected Journal Articles


Gordon, E., Haas, J., & Michelson, B. (2017). Civic Creativity: Role-Playing Games in Deliberative ProcessInternational Journal of Communication, 11, p. 19.


Gordon, E., Mihailidis, P. (2016). “How is That Useful Exactly? Civic Media and the Usability of Knowledge in Liberal Arts Education.” Journal of Digital and Media Literacy. Ed. Henry Jenkins, 4: no. 1-2. *


O’Brien, D., Gordon, E., Baldwin-Philippi, J. (2014). “Caring About Community, Counteracting Disorder: 311 Reports of Public Issues as Expressions of Territoriality.Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40: 320-330.


Gordon, E.  and Baldwin-Philippi, J. (2014). “Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Lateral Trust and Reflection in Game-based Public Participation.” International Journal of Communication, 8, 759-786. *


Gordon, E. (2013). “Beyond Participation: Designing for the Civic Web,” Journal of Digital and Media Literacy (Feb 1).


Harry, D., Gordon, E., Schmandt, C. (2012). “Setting the Stage for Interaction: A Tablet Application to Augment Group Discussion in a Seminar Class,Proceedings of 16th ACM Conference on Community Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW '13 Companion), Seattle, WA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 269-272.


Gordon, E. and Schirra, S. (2011). “Playing With Empathy: Digital Role-Playing Games in Public Meetings,” Proceedings of ACM Conference Communities and Technologies 2011, Brisbane, Australia.


Gordon, E, Schirra S. and Hollander, J. (2011). “Immersive Planning: A Conceptual Model for Designing Public Participation with New Technologies,” Environment and Planning B, 38(3) 505-519. *


Gordon, E. and Manosevitch, E. (2010). “Augmented Deliberation: Merging Physical and Virtual Interaction to Engage Communities in Urban Planning,” New Media & Society, 13(1): 75-95.


Gordon, E. and Bogen, B. (2009) “Designing Choreographies for the ‘New Economy of Attention,’” Digital Humanities Quarterly, 3.2: 25 pars. <>.


Gordon, E. (2008). “Towards a Theory of Network Locality” First Monday, 10.6: 18 pars.

Selected Reports


Suarez, P., Otto, F., Kalra, N., Bachofen, C., Gordon, E., and Mudenda, W. (2015). “Loss and Damage in a Changing Climate: Games for Learning and Dialogue that Link HFA and UNFCCC. Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre Working Paper Series No. 8.


Gordon, E. (2015). “Participation and Engagement: Defining Programs and Values (April 1). Berkman Center Research Publications No. 2015-6. Available at SSRN:


Gordon, E., Baldwin-Philippi, J., and Balestra, M. (2013). “Why We Engage: How Theories of Human Behavior Contribute to Our Understanding of Civic Engagement in a Digital Era (October 22). Berkman Center Research Publication, No.  21. Available at SSRN: *


Baldwin-Philippi, J. and Gordon, E. (2013). “Designing Citizen Relationship Management Systems to Cultivate Good Civic Habits.Boston Area Research Initiative Policy Brief. Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard University.

Selected Book Chapters


Gordon, E. and Walter, S. (2016). “Meaningful Inefficiencies: Resisting the Logic of Technological Efficiency in the Design of Civic Technology,” in Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice, eds. Eric Gordon and Paul Mihailidis (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). *


Gordon, E. (2016). “Civic Engagement,” in Debates on Mobile Communication. ed. Adriana de Souza e Silva (New York: Routledge).


Gordon, E. and Schirra, S. (2013), “Game-based Civic Learning in Public Participation Processes,” On Media Literacy, eds. Paul Milhailidis and Belinha de Abreau. New York: Routledge.


Gordon, E. and Baldwin-Phillip, J. (2013). “Making a Habit Out of Engagement: How the Culture of Open Data is Re-Framing Civic Life.” In Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation, eds. Jen Pahlka and Brett Goldstein. O’Reilly Media.

Recent Blogs


Gordon, E. (2016). "Civic Technology and the Pursuit of Happiness." Governing Magazine.

Gordon, E. (2016). "Civic Media is the Message."  Disrupt and Innovate. INGO Accountability Charter.

Gordon, E. (2015). "Beyond Shovelware: Finding the Right Tools for Engagement." Governing Magazine.