The thesis examines the power asymmetries found in today’s social web, and in particular in the relationships between networks and their users, arguing that play acts as a mediator of decisive importance. In a period that users’ communication and interaction are constantly being captured and datafied, the study focuses on the way game elements are being used in order to facilitate the surveillance and commodification of online behaviour. At the same time, it presents how the free form of unstructured play, which is inherent in many old and current artistic practices, is connected to modes and forms of resistance that aim for the critical empowerment of today’s users. With the use and synthesis of resources from different disciplines, such as those of network theory, media theory, political philosophy, game studies and art theory, the thesis examines how and why play has undertaken the role of a mediator in networked interaction. It discusses how its character shifted, following the changes that occurred in the topologies of online communication, which respectively connect to changes of data ownership and control. Emphasis is particularly given in the period of the ‘gamification’ of web, that is from 2010 until 2015, when, as it is argued, the intermediation of play became topological; game elements were then added to nodal points of the networks’ wide and interconnected architectures in order to serve and accelerate processes of data collection. Claiming that the use of game elements in the web serves the exercise of a ‘soft’ form of power, -offering to it the needed attractive mechanisms-, the thesis argues that what is mostly needed is a form of resistance that can shed light to the functioning of today’s networks. Within this context, and as part of the field work conducted, the thesis introduces a categorization of artistic practices which oppose the non-transparency of the processes of datafication. Additionally, it offers a categorization of alternative systems of connectivity that allow users to escape the logic of surveillance and control. The presentation and analysis of these categorizations is complemented by the study, analysis and evaluation of artistic workshops, where it is specifically discussed to which extent users’ critical empowerment and opposition is possible.
The PhD thesis is available only in Greek.