How Twitter gamifies communication

In Jennifer Lackey (ed.), Applied Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 410-436 (2021)
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Twitter makes conversation into something like a game. It scores our communication, giving us vivid and quantified feedback, via Likes, Retweets, and Follower counts. But this gamification doesn’t just increase our motivation to communicate; it changes the very nature of the activity. Games are more satisfying than ordinary life precisely because game-goals are simpler, cleaner, and easier to apply. Twitter is thrilling precisely because its goals have been artificially clarified and narrowed. When we buy into Twitter’s gamification, then our values shift from the complex and pluralistic values of communication, to the narrower quest for popularity and virality. Twitter’s gamification bears some resemblance with the phenomena of echo chambers and moral outrage porn. In all these phenomena, we are instrumentalizing our ends for hedonistic reasons. We have shifted our aims in an activity, not because the new aims are more valuable, but in exchange for extra pleasure.

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C. Thi Nguyen
University of Utah


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