City Profile, Youth Focus: Boston, MA (Fall 2017)

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This city hosted the most ambitious attempt to give youth a voice in shaping the data layer of Pokémon GO.

  • Participatory Pokémon GO (July-September, 2017). A competition for youth to 60-second videos pitching locations to add to the game. Winners were selected by a youth-led process. Locations might include small parks or historic buildings where something important happened.  See project site.


  • AR Stories (Fall 2017). A youth-centered hack-a-thon to commemorate Boston’s local history in augmented reality games by Niantic. After touring historic locations in Dudley Square (led in part by youth), writing activities led to much more meaningful descriptions of historical locations, which were then added into the game.



Key images

Boston Public School students pose in front of “The Faces of Dudley” mural during the walking tour portion of AR Stories Hack Day in October 2017 (image courtesy of Engagement Lab)
Winners of the video submission competition
Comparing a mural in the game before and after the workshop (Faces of Dudley; courtesy of Engagement Lab)
One student’s entry to the neighborhood competition (click to expand)


Full Report

>> The Boston effort is one of the few explicitly analyzed in detailed report. Including a discussion of:

  • sharing power with Boston city officials and a commercial game company
  • youth voice
  • participatory design

Sample insight: Boston organizers discovered that youth can be highly motivated to change the community narrative and reach new audiences through Pokémon GO. But as the report argues, technology alone cannot provide the scaffolding for marginalized youth. Local organizations turn out to be more important than ever, and success in Boston came by extending the local capacity of civic associations, historical societies, after-school writing programs, and more.


The Boston initiative was led by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, with the City of Boston through the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, City of Boston’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, Boston Public Schools, the Boston Public Library, the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center, and 826 Boston. The initiative was funded in part by Niantic, Inc.

More on the Boston remix

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