Playing at control: writing surveillance in/for gamified society

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Abstract

Gamification has entrenched constant monitoring throughout society. From education to work to shopping, our activities are tracked, our progress is monitored and rewards are meted out. But this enforced acceptance of constant surveillance constructs a social narrative in which privacy ceases to exist, and the technological tools at work can easily be shifted from reward to control. This is furthered through the shift from a Bentham/Foucault model of power and the threat of surveillance to the actualisation of complete protocological surveillance enabled by cloud computing, data centres and machine learning. It is no longer the case that anything we do might be surveilled; we can be fairly certain that everything we do probably is being monitored, judged and recorded. How can we negotiate these changing narratives? Of what fictions do we convince ourselves when we play the ‘game’ called digital society? This article uses the work of Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Dave Eggers and Ernest Cline to assess how fictionality can act as thought experiments for the social conditions of surveillance technologies. Through stories such as Halting State and Walkaway, we explore the collisions between the control-based society of tech companies and the disciplinary structures of traditional states - the points of tension between illusions of freedom, guided game paths and the exercise of power over users’ data and behaviours. The article argues for expanding our perspectives on the reach of game analysis to the broader connected networks of cultural and political systems, to assess ways of responding to the idea that we are being played with, turned into characters in the gamified narratives of control-based surveillance societies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSurveillance & Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

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surveillance
narrative
reward
Cloud computing
shopping activity
Learning systems
Education
cultural system
cline
political system
Monitoring
social factors
privacy
collision
acceptance
Society
society
education
Industry
threat

Cite this

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title = "Playing at control: writing surveillance in/for gamified society",
abstract = "Gamification has entrenched constant monitoring throughout society. From education to work to shopping, our activities are tracked, our progress is monitored and rewards are meted out. But this enforced acceptance of constant surveillance constructs a social narrative in which privacy ceases to exist, and the technological tools at work can easily be shifted from reward to control. This is furthered through the shift from a Bentham/Foucault model of power and the threat of surveillance to the actualisation of complete protocological surveillance enabled by cloud computing, data centres and machine learning. It is no longer the case that anything we do might be surveilled; we can be fairly certain that everything we do probably is being monitored, judged and recorded. How can we negotiate these changing narratives? Of what fictions do we convince ourselves when we play the ‘game’ called digital society? This article uses the work of Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Dave Eggers and Ernest Cline to assess how fictionality can act as thought experiments for the social conditions of surveillance technologies. Through stories such as Halting State and Walkaway, we explore the collisions between the control-based society of tech companies and the disciplinary structures of traditional states - the points of tension between illusions of freedom, guided game paths and the exercise of power over users’ data and behaviours. The article argues for expanding our perspectives on the reach of game analysis to the broader connected networks of cultural and political systems, to assess ways of responding to the idea that we are being played with, turned into characters in the gamified narratives of control-based surveillance societies.",
author = "Garfield Benjamin",
year = "2019",
language = "English",
journal = "Surveillance & Society",
issn = "1477-7487",
publisher = "Surveillance Studies Network",

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N2 - Gamification has entrenched constant monitoring throughout society. From education to work to shopping, our activities are tracked, our progress is monitored and rewards are meted out. But this enforced acceptance of constant surveillance constructs a social narrative in which privacy ceases to exist, and the technological tools at work can easily be shifted from reward to control. This is furthered through the shift from a Bentham/Foucault model of power and the threat of surveillance to the actualisation of complete protocological surveillance enabled by cloud computing, data centres and machine learning. It is no longer the case that anything we do might be surveilled; we can be fairly certain that everything we do probably is being monitored, judged and recorded. How can we negotiate these changing narratives? Of what fictions do we convince ourselves when we play the ‘game’ called digital society? This article uses the work of Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Dave Eggers and Ernest Cline to assess how fictionality can act as thought experiments for the social conditions of surveillance technologies. Through stories such as Halting State and Walkaway, we explore the collisions between the control-based society of tech companies and the disciplinary structures of traditional states - the points of tension between illusions of freedom, guided game paths and the exercise of power over users’ data and behaviours. The article argues for expanding our perspectives on the reach of game analysis to the broader connected networks of cultural and political systems, to assess ways of responding to the idea that we are being played with, turned into characters in the gamified narratives of control-based surveillance societies.

AB - Gamification has entrenched constant monitoring throughout society. From education to work to shopping, our activities are tracked, our progress is monitored and rewards are meted out. But this enforced acceptance of constant surveillance constructs a social narrative in which privacy ceases to exist, and the technological tools at work can easily be shifted from reward to control. This is furthered through the shift from a Bentham/Foucault model of power and the threat of surveillance to the actualisation of complete protocological surveillance enabled by cloud computing, data centres and machine learning. It is no longer the case that anything we do might be surveilled; we can be fairly certain that everything we do probably is being monitored, judged and recorded. How can we negotiate these changing narratives? Of what fictions do we convince ourselves when we play the ‘game’ called digital society? This article uses the work of Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Dave Eggers and Ernest Cline to assess how fictionality can act as thought experiments for the social conditions of surveillance technologies. Through stories such as Halting State and Walkaway, we explore the collisions between the control-based society of tech companies and the disciplinary structures of traditional states - the points of tension between illusions of freedom, guided game paths and the exercise of power over users’ data and behaviours. The article argues for expanding our perspectives on the reach of game analysis to the broader connected networks of cultural and political systems, to assess ways of responding to the idea that we are being played with, turned into characters in the gamified narratives of control-based surveillance societies.

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