[iDC] introductions

Aleena Chia achia at indiana.edu
Wed Jun 18 15:40:34 UTC 2014

Dear List,

I'm a PhD Student at Indiana University studying bureaucratic and affective
consumer labor. I'm interested in the cultural politics of fantasy,
ideologies of productivism, and systems of social compensation, as they
interplay in branded game worlds. This research draws from a year and a
half of ethnographic fieldwork with player collectivities of *World of
Darkness* live-action role playing games and *EVE Online* massively
multiplayer game. These gaming properties are connected through their
management by CCP Games, which has sought to brand itself as a developer of
open game worlds animated by player created content across transmedia

I will present "Magic Nerd Money: Work and Compensation in Ludic
Bureaucracies." This paper reconstructs two transformative clashes between
players and producers. I suggest how contrastive communicative scales,
structures, and understandings of laborious contributions to a transmedial
commons may account for different modes of collective action. On the one
hand, the live-action format is played out through bureaucratic structures.
This organizational structure may have facilitated collective legal action
by players against the company. On the other hand, the massively
multiplayer format is often played through consumer collectivities with
network enterprise structures. This organizational structure may have
facilitated collective ludic actions such as in-game protests and
rage-quiting, which unlike the aforementioned legal action, are contained
within and arguably absorbed by the contractual frame between producers and

In contrast to the voluntary, modular, flexible, and creative work that
make up consumer publics, consumer bureaucracies are maintained by
obligatory work that is often tedious, feminized, and undervalued. In other
words, unlike unpaid digital labor of fans and gamers, the labor in
consumer bureaucracies feels unmistakably like work. Unlike unpaid digital
labor that can be compensated by informal reputation systems, bureaucratic
work demands compensation with ludic rewards in highly codified systems
that anchor and perpetuate player investment. This compensation system
highlights the strengths and weaknesses of consumer bureaucracies -
non-portable investments of labor facilitate enhanced motivations for
collective action; however, coordination capacities limit its operational
complexity and scale.

Looking forward to the discussion at the Conference!

Aleena Chia

PhD Candidate

Indiana University

*achia at indiana.edu <achia at indiana.edu>*
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