Transforming Lives and Regions

Pokemon Go 640 by 166Experiencing urban environments through Pokémon Go

About the Project

Pokemon Go B 300 by 200Urban onlookers have recently found themselves bemused by the sight of crowds of people holding up smart phones, photographing apparently random objects and landscape features. In fact, they are playing a new location-based free-to-play smart phone game, Pokémon Go. The concept’s creator, Satoshi Tajiri, cited his desire for players to explore the environment as a key influence. By attempting to collect randomly distributed virtual characters from major urban landmarks, the game augments the realities of users in unforeseen and unpredictable ways. Despite the game’s playful theme, or perhaps because of it, there are some portentous aspects for those interested in the future nature and workings of the so-called ‘smart’ city, its geographies and politics.

This project examines how locative data applications with ludic aspects affects users’ experiences and engagements with urban, built and ‘natural’ landscapes, reworking interactions between virtual and physical infrastructures and, potentially transforming lives and regions as it does so.  We will probe how the blending of the virtual and physical by Pokémon Go and its users, are assembling new kinds of urban geographies and socialities to offer meaningful insights into the future of digitization and urban development.

As citizens adopt informational and ‘smart’ devices to the point of near ubiquity and work and leisure become wrapped up with virtual systems, this project will contribute new knowledge of how lives lived ‘with the screen’ might be reshaping people’s daily urban experiences and socialities, urban geographies and, ultimately, urban politics. The project will explore Pokémon Go’s prompting of spontaneous encounters, creative and serendipitous engagements and experiences of urban environments both in their problematic and progressive guises (eg from traffic accidents, risk-taking, cultural insensitivities to interactions that contribute to individual and community wellbeing).  It will also look at potential business opportunities that may emerge around geospatial information and intelligence impacting regional and urban infrastructure governance and investment. 

Read more about the team presenting "A Place for Pikachu in the Smart City" at the The Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers 2017 Annual International Conference in London 29 August to 1 September.

About the Researchers

Pokemon Go B 300 by 200The project brings together a team of researchers spanning established, internationally regarded senior researchers, an emergent field leader and early career researcher.

Dr Thomas Birtchnell, Senior Lecturer, Geography and Sustainable Communities, Faculty of Social Sciences

Pauline McGuirk, Professor, Geography and Sustainable Communities, Faculty of Social Sciences

Dr Christopher Moore, Lecturer, The Arts, English and Media, Faculty of Law, Humanities and Social Enquiry

Pascal Perez, Professor, Infrastructure Modelling, Computer Science and Software Engineering, Faculty of Engjneering and Information Sciences and Director SMART Infrastructure Facility,


Last reviewed: 18 September, 2017

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