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*ROOM CHANGE* NOW IN 420 – Thi Nguyen: “The Gamification of Public Discourse”
May 30, 2019 @ 3:15 pm - 5:00 pm | Humanities 1, Room 420
The pleasures of games include, among other things, the experience of a fantasy of value clarity. In games, our goals and values are clear, quantified, and easy to apply and rank. This provides us with a particular existential balm – a momentary liberation from the ambiguities and difficult pluralities of moral life. Games instrumentalize our ends, for the sake of the pleasure of the experience of play. This is morally acceptable in games, because the ends in games are temporary and disposable. Instrumentalizing our enduring epistemic ends, on the other hand, invites bad faith reasoning. Social media encourages the instrumentalization of our epistemic ends, by offering highly salient quantified targets: Facebook Likes and Twitter Likes and Retweet numbers. It invites us to shift the ends of public discourse from some more subtle value towards, say, maximizing retweet numbers. We would thereby increase the pleasures of value clarity from engaging in discourse. Importantly, among those pleasures are: the pleasures of the simplified experience of moral outrage, and the pleasures of being part of a united epistemic community. But changing one’s epistemic aims for the sake of these pleasures is bad faith reasoning. And the form of the pleasures may help us to understand the relationship between social media and the formation of echo chambers.
The gamification of public discourse is an example of what I call “value capture”. Value capture occurs when: 1.) our values are naturally rich and subtle; 2.) we are placed in a social or institutional setting with simple, explicit, typically quantified representations of those values; 3.) we internalize those simple representations of our values; and 4.) things get worse. Some other examples include being value captured by FitBit’s step counts, academic citation rates, and GPA’s. The gamification of public discourse helps us see how we can understand the problem of value capture: it’s the inappropriate instrumentalizatio of an end.