Rethinking gamified democracy as frictional: a comparative examination of the Decide Madrid and vTaiwan platforms

Paper by Yu-Shan Tseng: “Gamification in digital design harnesses game-like elements to create rewarding and competitive systems that encourage desirable user behaviour by influencing users’ bodily actions and emotions. Recently, gamification has been integrated into platforms built to fix democratic problems such as boredom and disengagement in political participation. This paper draws on an ethnographic study of two such platforms – Decide Madrid and vTaiwan – to problematise the universal, techno-deterministic account of digital democracy. I argue that gamified democracy is frictional by nature, a concept borrowed from cultural and social geographies. Incorporating gamification into interface design does not inherently enhance the user’s enjoyment, motivation and engagement through controlling their behaviours. ‘Friction’ in the user experience includes various emotional predicaments and tactical exploitation by more advanced users. Frictional systems in the sphere of digital democracy are neither positive nor negative per se. While they may threaten systemic inclusivity or hinder users’ abilities to organise and implement policy changes, friction can also provide new impetus to advance democratic practices…(More)”.