[iDC] Introduction re: "The Internet as Playground and Factory"

Stephanie Rothenberg info at pan-o-matic.com
Sat Jun 6 18:14:36 UTC 2009

Hello all,

I'd like to introduce myself. I'm a professor at SUNY Buffalo in the  
Dept of Visual Studies. I have been mucking about in Second Life and  
digital games for the past few years creating my own projects as well  
as using it in the classroom. I co-created a virtual designer jeans  
sweatshop with Jeff Crouse that lets real world customers order  
actual, wearable jeans and watch them be made virtually in the Second  
Life factory. As a mixed reality performative project in the physical  
world and the virtual, it intends to pose questions around both the  
"fruits" of progress and the potential for exploitation through new  
models of outsourced capitalist production involving forms of  
telematic labor.

I've also been quite intrigued with the evolution of the industrial  
training film as a vehicle for social engineering into what I believe  
to be one of its more current incarnation's – online education and  
most often edutainment through the production of play. Specifically in  
terms of the global workplace and in countries that are transitioning  
from manual labor to more information-based economies. I recently  
created my own instructional training program that reflects on this  
topic and the notion of physical labor for virtual gain (www.perpetualtraining.com 
). I am interested in how this convergence becomes a transference and  
translation of not only the worker's physical skills but the values,  
behaviors and ideologies of one's physical labor into more cognitive  
forms. Much of this has been theorized in relation to the history of  
hobbies with regards to makers/DIY and collectors, and how hobbies  
have been instrumentalized wtihin capital's struggle against idleness  
and now into free virtual labor.

I am curious as to how this convergence affects millions of workers  
living in transitioning economies that are not web savvy as well as  
how it will affect the increasing numbers of unemployed manual workers  
in the US – the 20,000 supposedly being laid off by GM's bankruptcy  
would be a good example. Do we run the risk of an Alex Rivera "Sleep  
Dealer" scenario of telematic production or are there junctures of  
intervention within the training format for this emerging virtual  
working class? And furthermore how do we define class since the old  
labels of blue/white/manual/unskilled don't quite make sense anymore.

I'm currently spending a great deal of my waking hours (and now I  
think my dream time which is kinda sorta scary) in Second Life  
"playing" Barbara Ehrenreich works the metaverse. If you are working  
both worlds in which your real world job and virtual job intersect in  
any which way whatever, I'd really really love to hear from you!


(aka Doctor Rodenberger in Second Life )

Stephanie Rothenberg
Assistant Professor
Department of Visual Studies
University at Buffalo

stephanie at pan-o-matic.com


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