Shifting Boundaries in between the Ludic and the Non-Ludic

The permeation of today’s society with metaphors, methods, and components stemming from the world of computer games has for the past few years been labeled “gamification.”

This project intends to revise the understanding of this phenomenon critically on the basis of cultural-historical and media-studies research. We will for the first time conduct comprehensive research on predigital precursors of gamification and will work out how far cultural determinants about the distinction of ludic vs. non-ludic serve as a reference for what can be gamified and how this happens. In what respects do digital media make a qualitative difference? If gamification is a sign of the times and a signature of digital cultures, what are its genealogical roots? To answer these questions we focus on three key periods:

  1. In the 18th century, lotteries were legalized, and ludic composition methods and a ludification of everyday practices emerged.
  2. Victorian Dandyism showcased a new type of self-presentation and techniques of the self as a form of predigital gamification, at least for a privileged social group.
  3. The conceptual phase of the personal computer and home computing will be systematically analyzed in regard to the dynamics of demarcation lines between the ludic and non-ludic domains.

The project is supported by a 3 years grant from the German Research Council (DFG).