Gamification: the magic circle of technology
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 14:33 by Lyuba Encheva
In recent years gamification has emerged as a design trend in customer relationship management, marketing, education and governance. It promotes the use of game design principles in the organization of every day environments, tasks and interactions. As an offspring of advanced communication technologies, gamification relies on the unhindered use of networked devices that transforms every experience into a user experience. Borrowing on the ubiquitous popularity of video games, the premise of gamification is the technologically enabled relationship between virtual causes and real-life effects, and its promise - a mutually beneficial coordination of corporate and personal interest. This dissertation outlines the socio-political implications of the concept of gamification through a critical examination of its content and intended meanings. The unpacking of gamification as an aspiration and a worldview reveals that as soon as we take for granted the equality of the sign and the signified, we also accept that life experiences do not exceed the signs we use to describe them. Therefore, to play life as a game, as gamifiers urge, is to live life by design. The definition I coin considers gamification from the perspective of political consequences, rather than practical application and mechanics. I work towards this definition by focusing on the rhetoric of gamification as an expressed intention that constructs motives and renegotiates beliefs. Hence, the theoretical model I apply draws on the work of two major theorists. American rhetorician and philosopher Kenneth Burke offers a theoretical apparatus for the study of the form and rhetorical devices of addressed messages. French semiotician and social theorist, Jean Baudrillard, informs the deconstruction of the claims gamification makes. The treatment of language as intention and action that is necessarily subjective and interested, offers a liminal stand-point from where the vision of a gamified world can be seen as an ideology which normalises itself by rhetorical means. Thus, I propose that the concept of gamification, whether applied in practice or not, is a political act. It constructs an ideology that seeks to reconcile the myth of the sacrosanct freedom of the Western individual with the constant imposition of corporate and government demands for compliance, accountability and efficiency.