April 10, 2009

World in the Integrated Circuit

by Nick Montfort · , 7:46 pm

The very clever School of Perpertual Training by Stephanie Rothenberg offers you a virtual trainer and four web-cam mini-games (based on Tapper, Dig Dug, Space Invaders, and Tetris) that model less glamorous processes involved in the gaming industry: mineral mining, PCB assembly, box building, and shipping. Authors and artists, from Donna Haraway to David Byrne, have long called attention to the less pleasant sorts of labor involved in computing, but in the era of EA Spouse, when many of the really unpleasant jobs have been shunted offshore, it’s useful to remember the global implications of the gaming industry. This piece operates on a lot of levels, deploying information about global labor practices deftly, through intro screens and spoof news articles, but also parodying animated characters and showing through its functioning how games make drudgery into fun.

“School of Perpetual Training” is a 2008/2009 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web site. They were made possible with funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

3 Responses to “World in the Integrated Circuit”

  1. Katherine Parrish Says:

    Hey Nick,

    thanks for this. heartening to see work critical of labo(u)r practices being supported by government funding.

    could you point me in the direction of the David Byrne critique you referenced above? (apart from “this is not my beautiful house”)


  2. Nick Montfort Says:

    Katherine, I was referring to David Byrne’s True Stories (admittedly, a somewhat obscure reference) which, even if it isn’t a critique, definitely portrays the labor situation of those assembling computer components.

  3. Katherine Parrish Says:

    oh, glad I asked. hadn’t come across it before. And David Byrne + Spalding Gray = :)

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