Publication Details

Birtchnell, T., McGuirk, P. M., Moore, C. L. & Vettoretto, L. (2020). Pay to play? Subverting the digital economy of Pokémon Go in the smart city. Digital Geography and Society, 1 100004-1-100004-8.


Location-based games (LBGs) on smart mobile phones are challenging people's conceptions of public and private space and, in the process, opening up windows of opportunity for subverting the neoliberalisation of urban space associated with the smart city. In the context of the smart city, urban control by corporate, neoliberal interests exerts pressure on players to interweave digital gameplay with everyday life in hybrid urban space. However, players do not passively comply. Rather their subversions and transgressions are integrated into the realisation of the smart city. Drawing on an in-depth empirical study of the popular LBG Pokémon Go, this paper critiques the dynamics inherent in the game design aimed to produce profit from gamers' exercise, exploration and interaction. We trace how smart citizens exploit ambivalences in game design to unleash a form of 'gamification-from-below'. The paper's insights enrich understandings of the workings of transgression in experiences of digital technologies and mobile media. Finally, it provokes further attention to the paths, possibilities and limits to reconfigure trajectories of the corporate smart city.



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