[-empyre-] benefits of practice to conventional research / could gamification save academia?

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Fri Feb 24 01:58:28 EST 2012

I think we need another word for the opposite of gamification, maybe there
already is one, and a pedagogy and ethos that can contribute to the
formation of solidarity, critical awareness, and life-sustaining activity.

Gamification tries to turn play into a productive activity....  what about
turning productive activity into occasions for play?  On a cultural level,
we are in the habit of thinking these are the same things, but one is about
capturing energy and turning into money....  the other is about taking wage
labor and setting it free.  In an academic setting, this involves turning
students away from the narrow conception of education as certification for
employment, held into place by debt.  The alternative is an education which
recognizes these formal disciplinary structures, but teaches students how
to understand disciplinary structure, how to subvert it, and how to create
spaces of social dialogue, exploration of common interests, and the
collective pursuit of "the good."

A second thought is that many of our concepts of gaming are heavily
influenced by the impact of electronic gaming.  While much of it is
increasingly social, and this is good, electronic gaming also has shifted
broad cultural practices of gaming in an individual direction (single
player mode).  While games have always contained the potential for
competition, the contractual nature of gaming has counterbalanced the
competing need for individual subjectivity.  An individual can only engage
others in the contest insofar as he or she can convince them to participate
in the social activity of gaming.  As any Monopoly player discovers,
however, once the game begins to privilege a certain player and the
possibilities for meaningful participation diminish, the game gets boring
and the game ends before you or your friends are made totally penniless.
This dynamic is not as strong in electronic games, participation falls very
heavily on the solo player who chooses to play or not to play, and almost
every game has a solo mode.  Even the multiplayer games are not as easily
held into place by the social negotiation between players agreeing to play
for a time (though this does happen).  You leave when you get bored.
Gamification erodes the aspect of social agreement that is present in
traditional gaming (and the playfulness, even, of electronic gaming), and
in its place, erects a solo-player, merit driven economics to social
behavior.  It wraps activity in a fairly transparent "currency" with no
value beyond our decision to "buy" into this new form of compensation in
exchange for more direct forms of compensation (shorter workdays, better
wages, reliable healthcare and shelter, ergonomics, collective bargaining,
etc.).  The old marxist critiques of religion are probably better applied
to gamification.

The opposite of this tendency is what is needed.  People have done this to
a degree.  It is an art, poesis.  DeCerteau describes it in the Practice of
Everyday Life (an argument which has been appropriated by a culture
industry anxious to merge governmentality with "participation").


On Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 4:59 AM, Gabriel Menotti
<gabriel.menotti at gmail.com>wrote:

> >Interestingly though, until very recently these
> >developments have only been Cybernetic by
> >structure, not by name (mainly because it carried
> >the smell of a hype from the past). [LASSE SCHERFFIG]
> How efficient is this sort of symbolic camouflage to disentangle a
> discipline (structures of thought, conceptual frameworks, methods)
> from the hype (of the past)?
> From another perspective: should the changing of names/labels (from
> KYB to INF?) be taken as a “superficially” administrative or as a
> “deeply” philosophical operation? Or is it one of these cases in which
> such separation makes no sense whatsoever?
> Is there any advantage in sticking to the old, overused/abused
> concepts, and forcing them to perform new operations?
> >I generally feel uneasy with talking about "benefits"
> >of artistic research, […] But of course both "inform"
> >each other to some extend. [LS]
> I’m curious whether this information remains as a form of silent
> inspiration to the thesis, or if it is actually written down in some
> way. Do you refer to the artworks even in passing? If so, do you
> conceptually reframe them as experiments? How personal is (would be?)
> your account of them in any academic form (such as an essay)?
> >the "objects" on a game's screen do not exist in the
> >loops we created, although they exist (a) in code
> >and (b) for us, i.e. as sign and signal. The game,
> >however, functions without them. [LS]
> The game “functions”, but can it be /played/? And if it can’t, is it
> still a game?
> Considering the amount of material resources spent on these “objects”
> (memory, processing cycles, etc - which is critical in older console
> systems), how redundant they should be considered to the overall
> feedback structure entailed by the gaming system?
> (And: is this relation between “functionality” and “playability” in
> any form analog to the one between “conceptual structure” and “names”
> above?)
> >News of the World is a nice example of circular
> >causality because it bends the very rules that
> >produced it (the demand for peer reviewed
> >publishing). [LS]
> Reaching out to the other thread: should we take this rule-bending as
> a form of institutional critique? Can it have long-term effects, or is
> it restricted to opening space for a singular intervention?
> >But exams and degrees are already gamification
> >of education. And badge-based accreditation of
> >achievement outside the academy is a way of
> >reproducing this. [ROB MYERS]
> Ha, indeed. All the comments about “gamification” made me realise how
> it might be a most appropriate way to describe the particular economy
> of academic research we are already in.
> It brought to my mind a text on The Last Psychiatrist about a
> particular research project that went completely wrong, but
> nevertheless had a “quite positive publication output”. From its
> (self-congratulatory?) conclusion:
> “In general, the results could not be combined in an overarching
> model, and were thus disappointing with regard to scientific progress.
> In contrast, the end result in terms of publication output was quite
> positive: the majority of papers were presented at international
> conferences and published in highly cited journals and several
> students earned PhD degrees based on their work on the subject.”
> (The whole text: tinyurl.com/7fhsv9h)
> Best!
> Menotti
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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