The Blurring of Work and Play
The boundaries between work and play have become increasingly blurred due to digital media technologies. Take web cookies for example. Companies such as DoubleClick.com use hidden cookies to build in-depth profiles of individual users as they surf the web:
Over a period of time DoubleClick compiles a list of which member sites the user has visited and revisited, using this information to create a profile of the user's tastes and interests. With this profile in hand the DoubleClick server can select advertising that is likely to be of interest to the user. (from http://www.w3.org/Security/Faq/wwwsf2.html)In other words, as individuals browse the web, they become both content producers and consumers. More importantly, users are performing this work under the guise of entertainment, producing information with economic value but which they derive no profit from. Users are in fact performing free labor.
The same occurs with TiVo. As Andrejevic (2002) has pointed out, as TV watchers use TiVo, they reveal their tastes to the system which in turn caters more and more to them - a "commercial paradigm of interactive media as a means of inducing viewers to view more efficiently". This form of work benefits media companies at the expense of individuals. After all, in a strange way, consumers are paying TiVo while performing free labor.
The blurring of work and play in MMORPGs has three primary forces - economic profiteering from the sales of virtual goods, the growing resemblance of play to real work, and the embedding of real work into these environments.
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