The Global Digital Citizenship Lab Speaker Series presents

Jennifer R. Whitson (University of Waterloo)

'Citizen, Subject, Avatar: Gamifying Social Problems with Surveillance'

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Qualitative Research & Resource Centre (N141 Ross)

York University

The presentation provides an introduction to gamification and the quantified self. By first defining gamification, games, and play, and then linking the effectiveness of gamification to the quantification of everyday life, the paper shows how quantification in gamification is different from quantification in both analog spaces and digital non-game spaces. The presentation draws from governmentality studies to illustrate how quantification is leveraged in terms of surveillance, using three examples to demonstrate the social effects and impacts of gamified behaviour. These examples range from gamifying everyday life using self-surveillance, to the participatory surveillance evoked by social networking services, to the hierarchical surveillance of the gamified call-centre. Importantly, the call-centre example becomes a limit case, emphasizing the inability to gamify all spaces, especially those framed by work and not play. Ultimately, without knowing first what games and play are, we cannot accurately respond to and critique the playful surveillant technologies that gamification leverage, and the very real, very insidious, governance structures that are embedded within.

Jennifer R. Whitson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Legal Studies at the University of Waterloo. She works at the nexus of digital games and surveillance studies, having conducted ethnographic fieldwork with game developers since 2012. Her research centres on the shifting production models of the global game industry, tracing how risk management practices, datamining, and digital distribution shape developers' creative work and the larger cultural role of games and play. More generally, she studies digital media surveillance, social influences on software development processes, gamification, and governance in online domains. She is on the board of the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute and their Cybersecurity and Privacy Centre, and is a Research Advisor for Execution Labs, an investment platform for game studios. She is an associate editor of Surveillance and Society, and her work can be found in a number of edited collections, such as The Gameful World (MIT Press), as well as journals such as First Monday, Economy & Society, and FibreCulture.

Discussant: Alex Cybulski (iSchool, University of Toronto)

Sponsored by the York Research Chair in Global Digital Citizenship (Fuyuki Kurasawa)


The GLinsey McGoeylobal Digital Citizenship Lab Speaker Series presents

Linsey McGoey (University of Essex)

'The Elusive Rentier Rich: Piketty’s Data Battles and the Power of Absent Evidence'

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Qualitative Research & Resource Centre (N141 Ross)

York University

The popularity of Thomas Piketty’s research on wealth disparities raises a question: why was wealth inequality neglected in mainstream neoclassical economic theory during the latter half of the twentieth century? To explore this question, I draw on the writing of the early neoclassical economist John Bates Clark, who introduced the notion of the marginal productivity of income distribution at the end of the nineteenth century. I then turn to Piketty’s Capital in order to analyze the salience of marginal productivity theories of income today. I suggest that most of the criticism and praise for Piketty’s research is focused on data that is accessible and measurable, obscuring attention to questions over whether current methods for measuring economic capital are defensible or not. Debates over the robustness of Piketty’s data have had unanticipated effects, such as the implication that mainstream economics is marked by a high degree of internal tension and fruitful disciplinary discord. In reality, mainstream theory resists challenges to core disciplinary beliefs, such as the belief that remuneration levels reflect one’s economic contribution. I explore how ‘absent’ data in economics as a whole helps to reinforce blind-spots within mainstream economic theory. 

Linsey McGoey is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Essex. She’s currently working on two main research projects. The first explores the relationship between global philanthropy and growing economic inequality, with a focus on new, hybrid forms of philanthropy that direct charitable resources to for-profit recipients. The second is a project on abundance and scarcity in economic and social thought, with an emphasis on work by Georges Bataille and Henry George. McGoey is co-editor (with Matthias Gross) of the International Routledge Handbook of Ignorance Studies (2015), and the author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy (Verso, 2015).

Discussants: Kean Birch (Department of Social Science, York University), Matthew F. Hayes (Department of Sociology, St. Thomas University)

Refreshments will be provided at the event.

Sponsored by the York Research Chair in Global Digital Citizenship (Fuyuki Kurasawa)


Jean Monnet Lecture Series and Global Digital Citizenship Lab Speaker
Series jointly present

Dorit Geva (Central European University)


"No to the Ideology of Gender!":
French Mobilization Against Same-Sex Marriage
and Bourgeois Politics of Distinction

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Department of Sociology Common Room (2101 Vari Hall)
York University

The “Manif Pour Tous” (MPT) is a French social movement that mobilized during the spring of 2013 against legalization of same-sex marriage. Drawing from ethnographic observation of MPT events, supplemented by interviews with founding members, the paper analyzes the complex moral claims of MPT activists. It seeks to understand why they mobilized against “gender,” at the same time that they claimed that they were not homophobic, and even self-identified as feminist. The paper argues that MPT members viewed their own ideational complexity as standing against the “ideology of gender” propagated by “bobos,” or bourgeois-bohemian secular elites who putatively dominate French universities and the French state. The politics of gender and sexuality have therefore become a stage upon which intrabourgeois class struggles are being played out in contemporary France.

Dorit Geva is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Central European University (Budapest), and is currently a EURIAS fellow at the Collegium de Lyon.  After completing her Ph.D. in Sociology at New York University, she was the Vincent Wright Fellow in Comparative Politics at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, and spent four years as a Harper Schmidt Fellow teaching social theory at the University of Chicago before joining the Central European University in 2011. She has published a comparative book on the gender politics of military service in France and the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2013) as well as articles in the American Journal of Sociology, Polity, Politics and Society, and Social Politics. With the support of a European Commission Marie Curie Grant, she has been gathering data on the gender politics of right-wing movements and parties in France. She remains a Torontonian at heart.

Sponsored by the York Research Chair in Global Digital Citizenship (Fuyuki Kurasawa) and the Jean Monnet Chair at York University (Heather MacRae)