Could Location Data Improve Civic Engagement?

Alex Howard shares an intriguing Twitter conversation on ReadWriteWeb. Alex usually covers the Gov 2.0 beat for O’Reilly but this topic definitely overlaps with his work there and the range of things covered by RWW. The conversation drew in higher ups from both FourSquare and Twitter, both of which to different degrees have been experimenting with location data and social/gaming dynamics. Anil Dash also chimed in, sharing his usual keen insight for this space.

Might civic badges be next? Keep on eye on Dennis’ feed. And in the meantime, watch Gowalla. As my interview with the Gowalla co-founder Josh Williams on social media for citizen engagement at today’s AMP Summit showed, that location-based social network already has moved into this space.

I will admit that to date I have found very little use for applications that parse and do anything with my location data. I am not blind to how popular these are with my contemporaries and, as Howard identifies, the younger generation. The idea of using social gaming and location data to spark an interest where one has failed to catch before is tantalizing. But I have a concern.

My own civic engagement has been slow to build, and continues to do so. Maybe I am biased by that experience but I think it will take something more than the flavor of the moment to cultivate an active citizen. I could easily see buzz heavy offerings jump starting interest and activity for someone just starting out. But what about the inevitable drop off as enthusiasts more interested in the gaming aspects than the subject of any particular game move on to the next thing? I’d be curious to see the discussion extend into how to turn the instant fascination into a durable and unfolding relationship with civics and public life.

Could Location-Based Services Increase Civic Engagement in Millennials? ReadWriteWeb

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