29 aprile 2010


The increasingly blurred distinction between online play and labor. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are pulverizing the final distinctions between work and play.

As Rob Horning noted on his blog Marginal Utility last month, “social networks are harvesting and reselling the details of our cultural cry of self, conveniently translated already by our volunteer labor into terms of brands and trademarks already on the market. "This process even has a cute neologism – playbor, which was the focus of “The Internet as Playground and Factory,” a recent academic conference in New York. “Social participation is the oil of the digital economy,” explained organizer Trebor Scholz on the conference website. “It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between play, consumption and production, life and work, labor and non-labor.”Writing recently in Wikinomics, Naumi Haque contributed some examples:The simple idea driving the playbor discussion: What happens when we collapse the often conflicting interests of work, personal ambitions, and entertainment into a single activity? We already see examples of this happening on the Web. Consider Google’s Image Labeler, which creates a game out of the legitimate task of tagging and creating metadata for Web images. A less contentious example is Free Rice, which hosts a word game and has sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme for every right answer submitted by players. Media theorist Julian Kücklich, who has written about how computer game modifiers (“modders”) contribute unpaid labor to the gaming industry, defined playbor thus: Like other forms of affective or immaterial labour, playbor is not productive in the sense of resulting in a product, but it is the process itself that generates value. The means of production are the players themselves, but insofar as they only exist within play environments by virtue of their representations, and their representations are usually owned by the providers of these environments, the players cannot be said to be fully in control of these means. Playbor is suffused with an ideology of play, which effectively masks labour as play, and disguises the process of self-expropriation as self-expression.

published on: Schott's Vocab