The design — or lack thereof — of traditional offices and contemporary team and home workspaces demonstrates a history of representation, power, and ideological pretension.
Whereas the offices of governors and company directors stage insignia of power (world maps, leather chairs, wooden wall panels, luminous globes), the start-up companies of the first decades of our century present themselves as playful, transparent, and easygoing. Silicon Valley industry leaders pride themselves on having hierarchically flat, open workspaces—or even »no offices« at all (Zuckerberg 2015). Others feature areas reminiscent of children’s playgrounds (e.g., Google’s Zurich campus, Lego headquarters). With the arrival of Covid-19-induced lockdowns and the rise of home offices the situation has changed once more. Individual setups as well as standardized technological settings (Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams) have shifted workspaces away from shared domain, while promising a new work-life balance, one which can be critically investigated as a potential collapse of separate work and leisure spheres into a 24 / 7 totality of work. Offices are hence transformed into arenas of »playbour« (Kücklich 2005)—a portmanteau expressing the work-play dialectic in contemporary postindustrial production. The promise of a playful work experience has been characterized as gamification (e.g., by McGonigal 2011; Deterding et al. 2011; Werbach and Hunter 2015; Zichermann and Linder 2010). Joyful working conditions can moreover be related to Raessens’s concept of the ludification of culture, embedded in cultural transformations he observed as part of the digital (2006). Google’s offices, with swings and slides for employees, are material indicators of the infiltration of game elements into everyday work-life. However, critical voices denounce such attempts as ideology (Fuchs et al. 2014), »exploitationware«, or simply »bullshit« (Bogost 2011).
Mathias Fuchs is a game artist, musician, and media scholar. He pioneered the artistic use of computer games and has exhibited work at ISEA, SIGGRAPH, transmediale, and the Greenwich Millennium Dome. In 2012 he became a professor at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, where he works at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Media. Currently he is an IFK_Senior Fellow.
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