What Does A Community Built Around Augmented Reality Look Like?

Two months ago I confessed I may have misread the impact and potential of the Pokemon Go game on attracting new customers and audiences.

However, the Knight Foundation feels that the basic technology and dynamics of the augmented reality game may have potential use for engaging communities. Earlier this month, they announced a multi-year partnership with Pokemon Go developer and publisher Niantic.  They started out by shutting down three miles of streets in Charlotte, NC during the Open Streets 704 events and creating places with which players of Pokemon Go and Ingress games can interact.

I haven’t seen any follow up articles evaluating how it went. I suspect it may be awhile before anyone makes any statements. The Knight Foundation was approaching the whole project with an open mind and few pre-determined expectations.

We don’t know, but we believe that in embracing change, we might get a glimpse of how to build cities and communities of the future that are even more active and engaging than today.

Our plan in this partnership is to learn. This year, Knight Foundation and Niantic will work together to explore how Pokémon GO can bring more people, more energy and more excitement to great public places in some of the 26 communities where Knight Foundation invests.


Neither of us knows exactly where this partnership will lead us, but we hope that, together, we’ll learn something about the power—and limits—of technology to support more engaged communities.

This seems like something to pay attention to see what develops. When I first talked about Pokemon Go last July, my approach, along with dozens of other commenters, was to find a way to respond to an emerging trend. The intention of Knight Foundation appears to be toward more proactively developing an emerging technology and the accompanying social dynamics for community building.

I imagine what attracts the Knight Foundation to Niantic’s games is that they have gotten people up and moving around physical communities.  There are a number of communities and transactional interactions that have developed on the online, but the big complaint has been that this has removed the need for in-person interactions.

Augmented reality games may have a digital element that keeps your gaze averted, but it requires moving about reality to play which can be seen as an improvement (up to the point you fall into an open manhole, I suppose). If the Knight Foundation does have an agenda that are going into the partnership with, I suspect it is to find ways to induce people to share/employ augmented elements in each other’s presence.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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