Designing Outreach in Virtual Worlds–Politics Online Conference 2008

In New Media, Politics on March 2, 2008 at 2:22 am
Outreach is no longer something that occurs on Facebook or in the school gymnasium after a town hall meeting. Some elected officials are using online multi-player games, like Second Life, to reach constituents. Some associations and issue groups are developing persuasive games. This panel will provide an intimate look at developing and designing an outreach program for virtual worlds.

Chair: Ian Bogost – Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology & Founding Partner, Persuasive Games, LLC

Dr. Ian Bogost is a videogame designer, critic, and researcher. He is Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC. His research and writing considers videogames as an expressive medium, and his creative practice focuses on games about social and political issues.

Bogost is author of Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism (MIT Press 2006), recently listed among “50 books for everyone in the game industry,” and of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (MIT Press 2007), along with several other books and many other writings. He is a popular speaker and widely considered an influential thinker and doer in the videogame industry and research community.

Bogost’s videogames about social and political issues cover topics as varied as airport security, disaffected workers, the petroleum industry, suburban errands, and tort reform. His games have been played by millions of people and exhibited internationally at venues including Laboral Centro de Arte (Madrid), Fournos Centre for Digital Culture (Athens), Eyebeam Center (New York), Slamdance Guerilla Game Festival (Park City), the Israeli Center for Digital Art (Holon) and The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Melbourne).

Bogost is currently co-authoring a book on the Atari 2600 along with a number of new videogames for that platform. He is also completing a game about the politics of nutrition, commissioned by PBS and the iTVS, and designing editorial “newsgames” in a groundbreaking game publishing relationship with the New York Times.

Bogost holds a Bachelors degree in Philosophy and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children.

Ben Sawyer – Co-Founder, Digitalmill

Ben Sawyer is the co-founder of Digitalmill, a games consulting firm in Portland, ME. He has worked on and been involved in game development for over 10  years.  He is the co-founder of the Serious Games Initiative ( with the U.S. Government’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. Founded in 2002 the Initiative is one of the leading voices and organizers in the serious games field.  In 2003 Sawyer started the first Serious Games Summit – a conference that now regularly attracts 300-500 attendees discussing latest best practices.  In 2003 Sawyer Co-founded the Games for Health Project ( which is now sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is working to develop results in the health and healthcare field with games.

As a developer Sawyer has worked on over a dozen major serious game projects.  He has worked on games about redistricting, and the U.S. federal budget.

In a previous life Sawyer, the son of two campaign staffers, was on the national field staff for Clinton ’92 and worked as a press analyst for the presidential transition in 1992-93.  He has also worked on three congressional campaigns (Two Senate, One House).  In 1993 Sawyer was reapportionment staff for the democratic legislative caucus. reporting to now Representative Michael Michaud (D-02)  He spent most of his days coloring maps with markers which is not much different then his life making games is now.

A lifelong gamer, Sawyer often draws upon his extensive knowledge of games played since the original Pong.

Sue Singer – Program and Project Manager, Linden Lab

Susan Singer is a Program and Product Manager at Linden Lab, the founder of the 3D user-created virtual world, Second Life. Susan coordinates the design, development and implementation of various Linden Lab projects, both for Second Life features and functionality as well as internal process improvements. She has built her career in technology consulting, working for firms that focused on strategic identification and technical implementation. She designed and developed a strategy research company’s, the Corporate Executive Board, first entry into interactive technologies using an online learning platform. Prior to her graduate degree, she founded a boutique consulting company, Intrinsinc. She’s also worked as a project manager at Razorfish, a website design and development company, and i-Cube, a data migration company. She has a B.A. in Cognitive Science from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. She lives in Washington, DC and works remotely for Linden Lab.


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