I am an assistant professor at American University where I focus on civic media — especially through our game design lab and MA, communication studies PhD, and our Center for Media and Social Impact.

In 2004 I co-founded Games for Change, and today I continue to build the field of social issue games. Subsequently, I was a program officer at the MacArthur Foundation in their portfolio on Digital Media and Learning. I also spent a year at the UC Berkeley School of Information, where I was a postdoc researcher and instructor in their program on data science. My PhD is from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. You can follow me on Twitter @bgstokes and on LinkedIn.

Research Focus:

  • Stronger neighborhoods with real-world games: I study how digital media can help shape engagement on physical streets and in real communities  (from reinventing the bus stop to mobile mapping), connecting residents to build social capital, retain local history and magnify local culture in the face of change.
  • Participatory design of civic media: I also facilitate and teach community-based design, blurring the overlap of digital and physical worlds, empowering participants to tell a collective story about the future of their neighborhood, while learning skills of coding and urban planning.
  • How we talk about impact with games: New projects and funding often repeat the same mistakes.  As a field, can unified language and tools help us to work across disciplines and increase impact?  See #GameImpact.

Some Research History (see also past Projects): Many of these collaborations continue today; others indicate my conceptual grounding.  I continue work with the Leimert Phone Company and the Situated Engagement Group to consider how mobile media and urban furniture can locally situate civic engagement (co-founded with François Bar at USC); in my work with Tracy Fullerton at the Game Innovation Lab I studied how real-world games shape learning networks; in working with the Metamorphosis project led by Sandra Ball-Rokeach I study neighborhood empowerment by analyzing the local communication ecology; and across all this, in my work with Henry Jenkins in Civic Paths I investigated how civic life is changing for young people in a digital age as part of the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics.

In Another Era… I managed programs at NetAid/Mercy Corps in gaming, online volunteering, and online peer learning for global citizenship (now the Global Citizen Corps). Working in educational technology, I was a producer at ProQuest/Bigchalk.com, which reached more than 43,000 schools. I have developed digital games (see the Peter Packet Challenge) and learning communities that engaged more than 150,000 youth in fighting extreme poverty. I studied the single atom wire for my B.A. in physics at Haverford College, and studied West African drumming in Senegal.  

Contact me: If you need to reach me by email, please write bstokes@american.edu.

* Photo credit: Ida Benedetto