Urban Institute: “Pokemon Go is excluding minority neighborhoods in DC.”

pokemon
Photo by PoPville flickr user Joseph Gruber

From an email:

“I want to pass along a new Urban blog post detailing how Pokemon Go is excluding minority neighborhoods in DC. Researchers were able to map out how “Pokestops” and “gyms” are located in predominantly white neighborhoods, and what these implications are for inclusive placemaking.

Here’s the post.

Pokémon GO, which is free to download and play, uses a phone’s camera and GPS to overlay Pokémon in the real world. Players catch Pokémon using Pokéballs which, along with other game-related items, can be picked up at Pokéstops. Pokéstops and the virtual gyms where Pokémon can train for battle tend to be located near local landmarks, businesses, and historical monuments that are heavily trafficked by pedestrians. And as the maps below show, they are concentrated in majority-white neighborhoods.

Read the full Urban Institute post here.

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123 Comment

    • Right there with you. They actually used the term “pokéstop redlining” and an article cited used the term “pokestop deserts.” That’s disgraceful. Redlining was, and is, a significant problem, the ripple of effects of which are being felt to this day. Similarly, the number one health crisis in this country is obesity, and food deserts are a significant contributor to obesity in low SES populations. To co-opt those terms in this context is ridiculous.

      • I challenge you to think of how using those terms in this context can engage an audience that may not be attuned to the policy crises that exist in these communities. By bringing to light how such ridiculous things as Pokestops are being doled out unfairly, we can demonstrate yet another symptom of the systematic racism that plagues our society and perhaps encourage people to push for change.

        • I challenge you to focus on real and important problems that meaningfully affect people’s lives.

        • First of all, who is “we?” You obviously have some connection to the authors – what is it? Moving on, You can’t just string together SJW catchphrases to make a convincing argument. Why don’t YOU tell ME “how using those terms in this context can engage an audience that may not be attuned to the policy crises that exist in these communities.” What populations are you trying to reach that aren’t attuned to these issues? Also, while I realize this is subjective, I wholeheartedly disagree that this is a good way to attack racism in society. As pointed out below, issue fatigue is a real thing, and people are much more likely to just role their eyes when confronted with this nonsense. If you need anecdotal evidence, please look at virtually every single comment on this thread – and the PoPulace isn’t exactly comprised of a bunch of dyed-in-the-wool conservatives.

          • Actually DCD, Becca makes a good point. I personally did not know what redlining was until I went to grad school and what a food desert was until I was well into my twenties…and I’m a fairly educated and attuned person.
            .
            Half of what education is is explaining concepts in a way that the student can understand them or by making concepts seem interesting. It’s like when my high school history made us write songs about major historical events or when my biology teacher had us bring in food dishes that were in the shape of the parts of the cell. When you tie things like history, biology, or even urban economics to something that people are interested and understand.
            .
            So if a reader reads about this report and goes “oh I wonder what redlining is?” or perhaps later reads about actual redlining and says “oh, now i understand it because of that pokemon article” then those terms will have “engaged an audience that may not be attuned to the policy crises that exist in these communities.”

      • Agreed, dcd. There’s plenty of inequity in the real, nonvirtual world that the Urban Institute could’ve focused on. This article makes them look ridiculous

  • “Pokéstops and the virtual gyms where Pokémon can train for battle tend to be located near local landmarks, businesses, and historical monuments that are heavily trafficked by pedestrians.”

    That is the reason, not because of who or what lives near them.

  • I’m sorry, no. Based on that map it’s mainly just concentrated in the city center…look at the wealthy white burbs of Northwest, pretty much the same sparsity. I hate this race baiting crap, it’s stupid, irresponsible, and not what society needs right now.

    • When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail

    • Right, isn’t this just a case of a heat map actually being a population density map? (Relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1138/)

    • Well yes, if you eye-ball the map, things don’t look that off. Urban has data backing what they’re saying – see the post from the author below. They’ve use “regressions to control for the effects of population density, age, and median income. And even taking out the tracts around the mall, etc., the model still held.”

      • And if you know what that is, you’d also know that it’s very easy to mess up. I doubt this was done by one of their tenured staff. I want to see the actual methodology to gauge what they did. I don’t blindly trust “regressions”. Notice how this was self-published….

      • If they’re going to use fancy things like regressions, they should scale the heat map sensibly so that it’s some kind of deviation from predicted pokestops. This is the most meaningless way to use the combination of regression analysis and data visualization. Just remember: statistical software is so accessible these days that a monkey could run regressions and find statistical significance for *something*. How you control for these things matters a lot. Not everything is linear. Not everything is independent. Not showing your regression results is a super big red flag.

        • I don’t even understand half of what you said there, but it sounds delightfully logical and sound!

        • + 1. Just received a MA with some advanced stats training. Must provide a table showing results, pre-test analysis (does it fulfill assumptions of your model, and if not, did you control for it or adjust the model accordingly, etc.), type of regression, etc., otherwise its bull.

  • Next someone’s going to come to the realization that the number of sit down restaurants, grocery stores, etc. is also highly correlated to SES (which in DC also corellates highly with race).

  • Finally, an advantage in this country to being Black…

  • Oh, bull. Overlay this map with a density map and it will make sense. More density = more pokemon. Less density = less pokemon. If it was racially based, then explain to me how AU Park, Chevy Chase, Foxhall and Burlieth, all some of the whitest places on the planet, have about the same density of pokemon as Congress Heights, Deanwood, or Hillcrest – some of the blackest neighborhoods in the city. The only correlation is the low density of these areas.
    .
    Stop trying to make EVERYTHING about race. Ugh.

  • justinbc

    So their complaint should be that not enough local landmarks, or “stop-worthy” businesses exist in their neighborhood, not about some stupid app that pulls in data submitted by local residents.

    • YES, this. Thank you Justin. My first thought exactly.

    • To my knowledge, Pokestops aren’t submitted by local residents – they are predetermined. If you’ve played the game at all, you’ll notice that a lot of the stops are pretty arbitrary in terms of their value as historical/cultural/local landmarks – do we really consider Soul Cycle a cultural monument cuz Pokemon Go sure does. For Niantic to determine that there is more culturally significant places in majority white neighborhoods is quite problematic and really a symptom of the much greater issue of ongoing segregation in cities in the US.

      • Yes, they are user submitted. You can go petition to have one added, as cities that did not have active ingress players/rural areas had a limited number of pokestops (there is a much more convincing urban/rural Poke-Apartheid) They are also contracted out by businesses. Furthermore, this is a broader problem with having businesses in low income communities, but thats normally a security issue (see: bullet proof glass).

        Can we stop using the word problematic for everything?

      • justinbc

        “To my knowledge, Pokestops aren’t submitted by local residents – they are predetermined.”
        What, then, is your knowledge based on? Because I know how it actually works (I played Ingress, and am probably one of the highest ranked PG people in DC), as I have submitted stops personally. Basically any article published after PG was released would tell you this basic information.

        • Lol, right? Urban should not have published something when they clearly don’t know how it works. I wasn’t playing Ingress but even *I* knew that Pokestops are based on Ingress based on several recent news articles. Urban has overlooked a LOT if they’ve overlooked this.

          • I take that back — I see they did mention it in the actual blog post although it doesn’t seem like they really thought about it given their interpretation of their results…

        • “probably one of the highest ranked PG people in DC)”

          HAHAHAHAHAHA.

      • Michelle Obama goes to Soul Cycle, which makes it a pop monument for DC, if not a cultural one.

      • Also, Becca — There is no team of people at Niantic sitting around 24/7 being like “Oh, let’s make this random bar/church/etc. a pokestop” because there is literally no possible way they could do that for every city in every country they roll out in. Can you imagine how long it would take for an employee to go through all of DC and formulate pokestops? Can you imagine how long it would take them to formulate every city in the entire U.S.? And Japan? And Europe? And maybe Brazil sometime soon? If one even stops to consider the scale of the game Niantic is obviously pulling from their previous data or other open source info. (Maybe in that case Urban should have done a study on income and access to data plans/the internet)…..

  • Seriously? This is one of the dumbest things I’ve read all week, even with Donald Trump constantly in the news.

  • Hear me out…
    That map looks an awful lot like a population density map to me, which would make sense to me (putting this Pokemon stuff in highly trafficked areas.)

    I could be wrong, but this seems a little ridiculous to me. Yes not including minorities is a serious issue but I really do not think that someone is sitting there at Pokemon headquarters (if that is a thing) intentionally not including minority neighborhoods. The more players they have, the better their app does.

  • Didn’t they crowd source all the locations from their other game, Ingress?

  • Lol how many other things are these minority neighborhoods not provided and you’re going to complain about Pokémon Go? give me a break.

  • Oh, for Pete’s sake!! Of all of the things to complain about, the Urban Institute chooses something 1) as trivial as Pokemon Go and 2) that seems to be biased in favor of population density, not race??
    .
    Maybe they’re hoping the Pokemon Go tie-in will give them some free publicity… but it’s going to be mostly (if not all) negative publicity.

    • To be fair, population density, SES, and race are all so intricately linked in DC that it’s not exactly straight-forward to untangle their respective contributions (though it seems Urban Institute didn’t even try…)

      • SES and race are definitely linked in D.C…. but I don’t think population density is.
        .
        As Shaw was saying above, “If it was racially based, then explain to me how AU Park, Chevy Chase, Foxhall and Burleith, all some of the whitest places on the planet, have about the same density of pokemon as Congress Heights, Deanwood, or Hillcrest – some of the blackest neighborhoods in the city. The only correlation is the low density of these areas.”

      • Actually, see the post from the author below, they used regression adjusted models controlling for median income and population density, among other things.

  • How diverse is the staff @ the Urban Institute? Any black males among the ‘experts?’

    • Poke Lives Matter?

    • justinbc

      I think they tried to get this guy, but he already quit playing…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvA9ZgC73vc

    • justinbc

      (assuming your question is serious)
      Based on a quick LinkedIn search, the overwhelming majority of the staff with profiles appears to be white. However if you go to the full blog post you can see that the 2 authors for this story, Shiva Kooragayala and Tanaya Srini, are neither white nor black.

      • The authors are a Research Associate II and a Research Assistant. What course of study inspires one to spend time on this kind of nonsense? (Apparently, the answer is “research on the relationship between suburban poverty and the Housing Choice Voucher Program in metropolitan Atlanta . . . [and] the spatial dimensions of working poverty in Philadelphia” and “political and economic barriers to effective housing delivery in Cape Town’s largest townships.”)

    • Seems pretty diverse based on Justinbc’s response.

      • stacksp – Sarcasm? “Based on a quick LinkedIn search, the overwhelming majority of the staff with profiles appears to be white.” I knew the answer and I am guessing few if any contributors live in the areas in question.

        It was a semi-serious question. They are talking about DC, In DC for the most part there are white, black, Latino and some mixed neighborhoods (historically mixed or mixed now due to gentrification.) So minority neighborhoods in this context means black (or Latino.) I believe in freedom of the press but I’m not sure this platform run by non-black, non-Latino, majority white contributors should be pushing out this nonsense as if it is a real issue to the people who live in those communities. If they are discussing something as insignificant as Pokemon their ‘house’ must be in order meaning they must surely employ a workforce of contributors that reflects the full diversity of the DC Metro area? I think posting this click bait decreases the focus on real issues and is contrary to their stated mission

        “Founded in 1968 to understand the problems facing America’s cities and assess the programs of the War on Poverty, the Urban Institute brings decades of objective analysis and expertise to policy debates—in city halls and state houses”

        “We believe in the power of evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities. Public policies work best when they are rooted in facts, and our research sparks solutions in programs and practice. Our analyses and recommendations help expand opportunities for all people, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the fiscal health of governments and effectiveness of public policies”

  • Crap, crap, and more crap! This can’t be serious.

  • If I were them I would consider that a positive thing.

  • If anything pokemon go is harder to play in the predominantly white suburbs and exurbs.
    .
    Looking at the pictures above and having seen people playing on the street, I actually think quite the opposite: Pokemon Go is one of the few inclusive activities in the city, where I see random black teenagers and white yuppies chatting together about playing.
    .
    Unlike others I don’t think this is an inherently silly topic, I just with UI would think about things a little more deeply before putting up a worthless blog post.

    • “Pokemon Go is one of the few inclusive activities in the city, where I see random black teenagers and white yuppies chatting together about playing.” Hmm, that is an interesting point — if Pokemon Go crosses barriers to bring people together, then it’s not completely trivial.

    • Yeah, I’ve seen some group pics posted on Reddit and local FB groups for random Pokemon Go meetups, and it’s crazy how it seems to pull people of all ages, races, genders, ethnicities, etc.

    • I agree that Pokemon Go has definitely helped to bring together all sorts of people, but the authors ran a regression adjusted model controlling for a number of things, see author’s post below. I doubt your eye-balling the pictures above is better than statistical analysis, but that’s just me.

      • justinbc

        Statistical analysis is great if you want to know how multiple numbers and factors overlay. It’s far from perfect when it comes to drawing conclusions about what those correlations actually MEAN.

        • So, how else do you interpret those results? Seems to me like a classic case of unintentional, yet systematic, racism.

          “Even when accounting for population density and the percentage of millennials at the neighborhood level, we find that as the share of the white population increases, Pokéstops and gyms become more plentiful.”

          • justinbc

            1) In the absence of Pokemon Go, none of the other factors change. There is absolutely no correlation. The places where there are businesses and landmarks previously had, and will continue to have the population that existed before Pokemon Go. 2) Seemingly arbitrary “Pokestops” were submitted by users in Niantic’s previous game, “Ingress”, and then ported over to PG. It’s frankly ridiculous to imply or infer that Niantic proactively researched demographics of neighborhoods in order to concentrate on a white audience. It’s a “Freemium” game, which means they make money by selling premium items to users, to which they would be idiots to purposely go out of their way to exclude potential consumers. 3) As so many others have noted, overwhelmingly majority white neighborhoods show similar lack of “stops”. 4) If you try really hard I’m sure you could come up with some actual substantive reason to use this data to make change, but the approach used by the authors certainly isn’t it.

          • Everything is not systemic racism. Not everything has to be a massive conspiracy theory. Maybe more wealthy white people played Ingress (the extremely niche sci-fi based game that the geolocations for many pokestops are based on?).

            Also, lets be real, even if black people don’t necessarily live in those neighborhoods, to me it looks like its large swaths of the central business and entertainment districts that they are likely to work in anyway (white or black).

          • I think we have a “correlation does not equal causation” issue going on here….

          • A couple of points that I alluded to in my original comment:
            .
            1. The authors conducted the analysis within an arbitrary boundary line (the district). If you used the entire US, I strongly suspect african americans would have greater access to Pokemon Go geography (because urban areas tend to be more heavily African American.
            .
            2. It’s absurd to expect them to have a perfectly social justice oriented geography oriented game immediately upon release, if ever. Given the constraints, the geography they’ve constructed is pretty reasonable.
            .
            3. Even if you wanted to ensure equal access to poke stuff, the relevant unit of comparison would be active users, not people. We don’t know the market penetration by census tract, especially since the important thing is where people play, not where they live.
            .
            Overall it’s a poorly thought out analysis, that puts people off what could actually be an interesting and fruitful line of inquiry. Hopefully these kids get some adult supervision next time.

      • Unfortunately, we don’t have a detailed description of that analysis. The author’s comment below hardly scratches the surface of what I’d want to see in order to evaluate the methods. Running a regression, even “controlling for a number of things”, doesn’t mean the analysis was done correctly. How did they handle omitted variables bias, for example? And I don’t even know what is omitted because I don’t know what they had data for. So like Justin said, we don’t know what their analysis means because we don’t know what the researchers did. This is why peer review and other forms of validation checks are important–to uncover whether a paper’s methods really tell us what the authors claim.

        • HaileUnlikely

          I agree with this as far as it goes. I would add, though, as I did in a comment below to which somebody from Urban Institute replied, that here, it appears that this was not intended to be passed off as a serious peer-reviewed scholarly article, it was a blog post by junior staff about something that they think is neat and interesting, which Urban Institute provides a medium for their staff to do. (Imagine the confusion and embarrassment that it might cause on occasion if Joe over there in the next cube got to post something he thought was neat on the web site of your organization.) The major shortcoming here, in my opinion, is that I do not believe that Urban Institute adequately conveys hon its website how the blog post came about, what it is intended to represent, and how much weight it should have.

          • But Nicole said below that the posts are grounded in research and that the research is reviewed before posts are published. So I’d still like to see the methods for myself. Otherwise, I can’t interpret anything.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Where I think this blog post has gone awry in that regard is that most of the other articles on Urban Wire are informed by the collective body of evidence on a topic, not a new and unpublished primary analysis of data by the author. I think this is basically an attempt to publish something in a particular format that perhaps shouldn’t have been published in that format.

  • HaileUnlikely

    I agree with basically all of the comments above. I’m a little unclear on the significance of posts on the “Urban Wire: The voices of Urban Institute’s researchers and staff” section of their web site, i.e., I’m not sure whether these posts are vetted by senior staff with any rigor (or at all) or if this is something where basically everybody at the organization gets a turn to post more or less whatever they want to. This and several other posts on this section of their site read much more like opinion pieces that contain a little bit of data than like serious stuff that is intended to actually have the weight of the organization behind it. I know several highly intelligent and thoughtful people at the Urban Institute and this is by no means representative of the kind of work that they do. If this is indeed something where basically anybody on their staff can have an opportunity to post basically whatever they want, posts like this one may lead them to want to reconsider how these posts are vetted and/or how this section of their website is described.

    • I think they’re just poorly reasoned blog posts that primarily serve as clickbait, which I wouldn’t necessarily mind except for the whole “Institute” posturing.

    • Thanks, all, for your comments. I oversee Urban’s content and social media strategy, and to clarify, Urban Wire is a space for staff to share insights from their work and apply them to what’s happening in the real world. Bloggers are empowered to share their views, but those views are always backed by research. Our editorial process is rigorous; every post we publish, including this one, is grounded in evidence and reviewed by senior researchers and editors.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Thank you for explaining this, Nicole, this is helpful.

      • While that may be the case, it would be helpful if those methods were also made public so that they could be assessed by readers as well. If they are, then just point me there–I’ll admit that I haven’t had the time to go searching for them.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Nicole – as a friendly suggestion, I believe it is evident in many comments here that a substantial number of your readers do not understand that what they are seeing is not intended to represent the fruits of a research project by the Urban Institute but rather a[n informed] blog post. Unlike others here, I am not going to pick on the author, the blog post (ok, I thought it was a little silly, but it’s ok, it’s just a blog post) or the Urban Institute, but I do think it would be beneficial to the readers and the Institute alike to be a little clearer about what Urban Wire is. (yes, it’s “The voices of the Institute’s researchers and staff,” which evidently maens something to you, but might be interpreted differently by the reader)

      • “grounded in evidence and reviewed by senior researchers and editors” – Please understand that this statement is doing a huge disservice to your senior staff to the point of losing credibility among those who actually understand how statistics work in social science. I would be concerned about how you sell this “Urban Wire” farce.

  • Linc Park SE

    Im puzzled how there can be Pokes in the jail, and baffled at the giant cluster of Pokes in Congressional Cemetery.

    • I am confused by those as well- though there were apparently some at Arlington Cemetery, the concentration camps in Germany, and the Hiroshima memorial (all of which asked to have them removed), so maybe it isn’t so weird after all.

    • Congressional Cemetery has an “exclusive” dog club (there’s a waitlist, a membership fee, and required community service to do groundskeeping at the cemetery). They aren’t allowed to “play” with dogs (throwing toys, etc), just walking, so I wouldn’t be surprised if people were also playing PG at the same time.

    • justinbc

      For reference, stops can be things as trivial as (defunct) call boxes or even interesting art in someone’s yard. Almost all of them were user submitted to Niantic Labs’ previous game “Ingress”. They used that same database to populate Pokemon Go. They are now supposedly creating a method for POIs to request removal from the game as a location.

      • “Almost all [“Pokéstops] user submitted to Niantic Labs’ previous game ‘Ingress’.”
        .
        So… even if this map _did_ show that Pokéstops were disproportionately located in non-black neighborhoods, wouldn’t the significance of that finding be that Ingress players themselves were disproportionately non-black and/or that they spent a disproportionate amount of time in non-black areas?

      • I’m also curious… when it comes to gamers in general, are most of them white? (The few gamers I know are white and male, but I don’t know whether that holds true for the population as a whole.)

        • All video games? It skews male (but not necessarily white), but is increasingly female (actually one of the largest growing customer bases.)

          • I guess I was thinking of the “cult-like” players — people who describe themselves as gamers, rather than people who happen to play video games.

          • textdoc – i’d be curious to see an ethnic breakdown of cult-like gamers as well. I’d assume majority white, but I’d think there would be a strong showing of Asians, as well. Perhaps it would be more closely correlated with SES, since gaming can be pretty expensive.

    • Poke stops are based on items of cultural/historical significance, and there’s lots of famous graves/markers in the Congressional cemetery. It’s a relative bonanza for us Pokémon Go players.

  • This is dumb. Complain all you want that there aren’t enough pokestops or gyms in your area — that’s perfectly fine. But to say that its this way because they are avoiding minority neighborhoods is flat out wrong and misleading.

    Go to any forum where this game is discussed and you’ll realize that rural neighborhoods experience the same thing. Some rural places in states in the US don’t even have pokestops or gyms, and I can guarantee you can look over census information for some of these areas and see that they are majority white. This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the misguided thought process of Niantic as far as setting up locations.

  • Thanks for bringing this up! Glad this post is invoking some thoughts. I’m worked on this piece, and we did use regressions to control for the effects of population density, age, and median income. And even taking out the tracts around the mall, etc., the model still held. To get our full argument, look at our full post: http://www.urban.org/urban-wire/pokemon-go-changing-how-cities-use-public-space-could-it-be-more-inclusive

    • Even the full post doesn’t have a methods section, so it’s hard to judge whether the regression analysis was done correctly. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, and what you’ve got is likely correlation. And the map still looks like a correlation with density (of foot traffic, shops, restaurants, etc in addition to where people live) more than anything else.

    • “I’m worked on this piece” – hehe,

    • “The model still held.” That doesn’t mean your interpretation of the model’s results aren’t silly.

    • justinbc

      Quote from your article:
      “but has also been criticized for “Pokéstop redlining,” or the disproportionately high concentration of Pokémon in white neighborhoods. As DC shows, this disparity is important not just to players trying to catch ’em all, but also to larger placemaking efforts.”
      Full quote from the article you cite:
      “People have noticed problems with Pokémon Go maps. “In some areas where most residents are minorities, Twitter users noted pokéstops are hard to find,” wrote Christopher Huffaker of McClatchy, in a report that mapped Ingress portals in Detroit and Washington, D.C., and said there were examples of redlining—lower-income areas or areas where black residents dominate appeared to have fewer virtual places deemed worth visiting. (Though when we reexamined these maps, it appears that pokéstops are actually widespread in these cities, visible if you zoom in; they’re just not as active and thus don’t show up in a zoomed-out view.) Suburban and rural areas are also pokéstop deserts, notes Rolling Stone.”
      —————–
      So you cited a source, who cited another source, whose source was some Twitter users. And then failed to include the full scope of what their conclusion was, so that you could extrapolate the point you wanted to make…

      • But the full quote doesn’t support the click bait! Discard it!

        On a serious note, unless you are truly interested in the methodology (flawed as it may be), perhaps refraining from giving the article the clicks it desperately seeks would be the best way to voice discontent.

    • I won’t say it’s crappy research, BECAUSE THERE ARE NO METHODS OR RESULTS REPORTED!!!

      If you want people to take this piece seriously, follow the lead of every respectable peer-reviewed journal and provide sufficient detail about your data, analyses, and results to allow people with the knowledge of these statistical procedures to evaluate your findings.

      Until then, everyone should just look at this as click bait – someone making statements without providing any supporting evidence – and nothing more.

  • I assumed this had to be an Onion article. Silly me.

  • Even on ‘important’ issues, gender discrimination, poverty, race relations etc. issue fatigue sets in even for well-meaning people. I just think it is reckless for UI to frame this as a race issue and waste the public’s limited attention on this when it does not even seem racial but population / foot traffic driven.

  • There are a lot of things of actual consequence that are lacking in Wards 7 and 8 — grocery stores, sit-down restaurants, job opportunities, places to shop. And this study focuses on Pokéstops??

    • And as I was saying above, given that “[a]lmost all [Pokéstops] were user submitted to Niantic Labs’ previous game ‘Ingress’,” it seems that even if this map _did_ show that Pokéstops were disproportionately located in non-black neighborhoods, the significance would be that Ingress players spent a disproportionate amount of time in non-black areas.

  • I’m divide over the approach here. Does using a silly clickbate “reseach” bring more attention to more serious underlying issues or does it simply trivialize them? I imagine Fox News will have a field day with this.

    I tend to lean toward the latter based on how this was presented. The article could have been more explicit “pokemon is a silly issue, but there are real underlying disparities, here is actual research on food deserts, quality parks, pub transit access,etc”

    • HaileUnlikely

      I agree with this. It would be good material for somebody like John Oliver. “A grocery store! We can’t even get a f*cking Pokestop for goodness sake!”

  • I don’t read the blog post as saying there has been some deliberate exclusion of minority areas from Pokémon Go or from Ingress, the predecessor game. I read the authors as calling for more inclusion, however that comes to be, because inclusion carries a lot of benefits with it.
    Neither the blog post or the article linked to the “redlining” quote says there has been deliberate exclusion of majority minority areas from Pokémon Go. This is the explanation offered for the relative dearth of Ingress focal points in minority areas (cobbled together from the two articles):

    “Because Ingress players tended to be younger, English-speaking men, and because Ingress’s portal criteria biased business districts and tourist areas, it is unsurprising that portals ended up in white-majority neighborhoods.”

    “But this, of course, is the problem when you rely on the geeky early adopters who play your smartphone AR game to map the world: it will reflect the world that they live in. The neighborhoods and places that Ingress players chose not to visit and map are not digitally represented in Pokémon Go’s universe, while the things they find interesting, such as off-beat street art that wouldn’t normally make it onto a city’s tourism map, appear there.”

    • It doesn’t matter whether an article says there was deliberate exclusion or not if they use the term “redlining.” Redlining was deliberate. That term should not be used if exclusion is not deliberate.

      • You should read the articles. The Urban Wire article says that Pokémon Go has “also been criticized for “Pokéstop redlining,” or the disproportionately high concentration of Pokémon in white neighborhoods.” The quoted words “Pokestop redlining” link to an article called How Pokémon Go Changes the Geography of Cities.” In that article there is a screen grab of a tweet from someone with the description” “Accidential ‘pokestop redlining’ found in design of Pokemon Go. (Detroit shown.)” That tweet in turn links to an article titled “There are fewer Pokemon Go locations in black neighborhoods, but why?” The explanation for the relative lack of Pokémon Go in minority neighborhoods offered consistently through these articles is that the original locations came from Ingress and the users skewed white and upper income.
        No one seriously calls this “redlining.” The term is always in quotation marks. Maybe a different term could have been used but there is no suggestion that there is some deliberate plot to keep Pokémon Go locations out of minority neighborhoods.

    • You don’t read the blog post and saying there is intentional exclusion? What does “redlining” mean to you?

      Not only that, they claim that the rigor of their research is untouchable because they ran regressions to adjust for population density and age/number of users.

      So one is only left to assume that UI is saying Pokemon go is intentionally designing their game to reduce participation by AAs.

      Perhaps it’s true. Though, as a game presumably interested in monetizing to the max, with no perceived or real downside to a diverse fan base, I see no reason why some software design nerds would “redline” neighborhoods.

      If the statistical analysis is sound, the only reasonable conclusion is that it is an indication of larger societal issues and nothing unique to Pokemon. Unless, they can come up with a scenario where intent would even be a viable part of the hypothesis.

      • Not to be rude but did you read the blog yourself? The term redlining is in quotation marks and it is cited as a term that others have used to describe the lack of Pokémon Go stops in minority neighborhoods. When you actually read the articles, it’s clear that these Pokémon Go stops come from another game whose relatively few users were largely white, male, and relatively wealthy. Hence the reason why not all that many of the stops they created were in minority neighborhoods.
        The Urban Institute is not saying that Pokémon Go is intentionally designed to reduce participation by Black people. They are saying that the platform on which the game is built was largely constructed by a demographic that was not likely to be venturing into minority neighborhoods and hence not likely to put “stops” in those locations.

      • Anon X — I think you misread? Anon said “I don’t read the blog post as saying…” aka “I didn’t think the blog post was saying…”

  • This post is problematic in so many ways. Problematic is a fun word, it says “something said is bad” but requires no reason why. A person may be afraid to ask what the problem is because they don’t want to display their ignorance of the perceived problem. Which would be even more problematic. Next up: craziness of asscoiciating the bad old proven “redlining” with a stupid app.

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