Theses Doctoral

A New Place to Work and Play: Play Labor and the Production of the New Worker-Subject at Hackathons

Le, Audrey

Since 2012, hundreds of companies have poured thousands of dollars into hackathons – finite events where creatives come together in small teams to design, build, and demo a new product of feature. The spectacle of the hackathon engages participants in a number of things: a transgressive ethos, disciplined play, and hacker’s literacies (Santo 2011). Based on my dissertation fieldwork at seven hackathons in three industries (journalism, healthcare, and e-government), I explore various types of play labor (Terranova 2000) based on the performances of eight teams. I show how teams creatively manage their peers’ affective and intellectual labor, and negotiate what appear to be industry-specific preferences for different technologies. In the process of competing for status and recognition, they engender distinct forms of play labor and making do. Hackathon participants directly embed resistance in their designs; some learn how to learn (Bateson 1972), giving them a strategic advantage over other classes of workers. They embody the characteristics of the new worker-subject required in the digital economy, as mutable, playful, and rapid.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Anthropology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Varenne, Herve
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 7, 2017