Ergin Bulut is Assistant Professor at Koc University, Turkey. He is a WIAS Research Fellow from 5 June - 31 July 2017. His WIAS research project focuses on how we can understand intense labour practices in the digital game industry through the lens of political economy of communication and critical theory.
What is your research project about?
The digital game industry is a perfect laboratory for realising the motto of “do what you love” (Tokumitsu, 2015). It is where one witnesses the crystallisation of the “post-fordist work ethic” (Weeks, 2011), which requires not only the skills of media workers but also their souls, hearts, and passion. Then, what does it actually mean to do what you love? My research project at WIAS will answer this question by specifically focusing on labour practices in the digital game industry and will seek to recuperate the concepts of alienation and exploitation within the context of bio-political production within which the distinction between labour and leisure is extremely blurred.
Throughout my work, I will argue that alienation is a valuable concept for understanding labour in the digital game industry through the following realities: waiving intellectual property rights through NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), lack of creative control over the labour process when subject to corporate demands, producing sequels to respond market demands, and not having an input with respect to the future of the studio during tough financial times. Like alienation, exploitation is also a helpful term to illustrate labour in the digital game industry since exploitation is not to be regarded solely as a monetary issue. Rather, I assert that exploitation in this industry is to be grasped in dialectical relation to the perpetual production dynamics of the industry, which in turn are tied to financialisation of work (Martin et.al. 2008; Haiven, 2014).
If not in monetary or antagonistic forms, alienation and exploitation as deeply interlinked processes manifest themselves through processes of corporatisation, financialisation, and precarisation.
What are you looking forward to during your stay at WIAS?
My goal is to go back to some essential readings of critical theory (Marx on alienation, Marcuse’s writings on reality and the pleasure principle as well as his thoughts on labour and play) and revisit some of the valuable work of Italian Marxists on immaterial labour and social factors, exploring how those can speak to each other within the ethnographic work I’ve done in a video game studio for two and a half years in America.