Diggers against Facebook

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sun Nov 21 19:27:52 GMT 2010

Main problem with Facebook is that while content 
is available to people who are logged in it is 
not generally available via search engines and quickly disappears.
Almost a private internet owned by Facebook
and then there's this.........

Tesco to sell facebook currency for real money
Facebook credits go on sale in UK
Tesco and games retailer Game start selling gift 
cards in more than 1,000 high street stores to buy virtual online goods
Josh Halliday - guardian.co.uk, Friday 19 November 2010 16.42 GMT
Online currency, with which Facebook users can 
purchase pixel-based virtual farm animals or pay 
to attend virtual events, might seem small beer. 
But now the online goods economy may be about to 
boom in the UK, as Tesco and the games retailer 
Game start selling Facebook credits in more than 1,000 high street stores.
The UK's 33 million Facebook users will be able 
to buy so-called "Facebook credits" in the 
non-pixellated world. The gift cards, costing £10 
or £20, will only be redeemable on Facebook, 
where users can spend the converted currency on 
any number of nonexistent objects.

FarmVille: they reap what you sow
FarmVille's success is built on its fantasy of 
self-reliance – yet its players are just serfs tilling for another's profit

Laurie Penny  - guardian.co.uk, Friday 19 November 2010 18.30 GMT
Almost 100 million people play FarmVille, which 
has just announced profits of $500m. Photograph: Guardian

There can be no more elegant example of the 
alienation of the modern workplace than the fact 
that hundreds of millions of employees across the 
globe spend their lunch hours pretending to be 
farmers on the internet. With all the 
breathtaking and transformative power of the web 
at their fingertips, armies of workers and young 
people still choose to spend their online hours 
growing virtual potatoes on badly animated digital fields.

One of the biggest forums for this activity is 
FarmVille, the online role-playing game made 
popular through Facebook, whose players tend and 
trade digital crops and livestock. Almost 100 
million people subscribe to the game, which has 
just announced profits of $500m (£300m) for 2010. 
I have an account myself, and have spent many 
happy hours playing on my virtual farm, although 
my attempts to grow virtual opium were swiftly curtailed by the virtual CIA.

This week, FarmVille's controlling company, 
Zynga, has begun a major expansion drive, 
announcing a new deal with Yahoo and marketing 
its in-game credits in real-world supermarkets. 
Zynga's stock is predicted to soar, especially 
after the launch of CityVille, an urban version 
that runs along the same principles of clunky 
virtual enterprise. Because of the extraordinary 
speed with which FarmVille has become popular, it 
is tempting to regard it as a fad; but this is no isolated phenomenon.

The internet now boasts several massively popular 
farm-themed video games: from Farmerama to Happy 
Farm, where 23 million people in China and Taiwan 
daily tend their digital crops. Altogether, since 
2008, the number of regular players of 
farm-themed online games across the world has 
ballooned to almost 150 million – 2.5% of the entire human race.

Most video games have obvious escapist themes, 
allowing players to immerse themselves in 
fantastical scenarios such as leading dwarf 
armies or shooting aliens in epic space battles. 
FarmVille is not really about escaping to a farm 
– most of the office workers saving their digital 
coins to buy virtual tractors would panic were 
they ever to be presented with an actual pig. 
Perhaps what the sudden popularity of 
co-operative farming games shows is that, for 
many modern workers, the idea of owning a piece 
of land within a friendly community is now just 
as inconceivable as pulverising zombie invaders in Resident Evil 4.

Farming games tap into a powerful collective 
wish-fulfilment fantasy: the fantasy of running 
your own life rather than being a peasant in the 
neo-feudal hierarchy of corporate serfdom. The 
precarity and anxiety of modern labour conditions 
have become more acute during the financial 
crises of the past two years, and this is 
precisely the timeframe in which the craze for these online games took off.

The bitter irony, of course, is that FarmVille 
itself is a neo-feudal state, where rich virtual 
landowners exploit the free labour of virtual 
farmhands to make real profits. For all its 
evocation of rustic utopia, this and other farm 
simulations are ruthless markets whose 
exploitation of human emotion is anything but 
virtual. Real-world gift cards, now available in 
real-world supermarkets, can buy FarmVille 
players in-game advantages such as better 
"equipment" and more "seeds", and, as with many 
games, some independent speculators have made 
huge profits by trading online assets and even 
running gaming sweatshops to boost their profits. 
The launch of CityVille may simply be the logical 
next step in the online industrial revolution.

The stated mission of Zynga is to "connect the 
world through games" – but rather than connecting 
the world, online farming games unite it in a 
compliant virtual fantasy of self-determination 
that displaces real resistance. Alienated workers 
pay real money to play out a fantasy of having 
control over the products of their own labour, 
but the true tragedy is that, even in the jerky 
bucolic idyll of FarmVille, they are still working for someone else's profit.

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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

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