but who are “they,” exactly?

Scott Morrison, Australian PM (image: ABC, used without permission)

In late March 2020, as COVID was making inroads into Australia, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, declared that the new “National Cabinet” would replace the old Council of Australian Governments (COAG). This rather dry story, of interest to only the most dire wonks, was accompanied by a rationale for this sudden and sweeping reform: “This is a congestion-busting process that will get things done with a single focus on creating jobs.” Morrison’s job-creation agenda seemed unconnected from the pandemic that had caused it; he even identified employment as the entire motivating force behind the maintenance of Federation: “It will have…


and that may be playing a part in narrowing the political imagination of gamers

Image source: Satisfactory website

Last week I wrote about how games have come to resemble jobs in a lot of ways. In this post I want to consider this shift in game design as part of a process that is the opposite of gamification; if the world is becoming more game-like, then games are becoming more world-like at the same time. The line between games and simulations is becoming blurrier, games are becoming ‘simulified’. If games are all simulators now, then what are they simulating? And what does that do to the player?

Ian Bogost has pointed out that the word “gamification” is a…


Building a longhouse in Valheim (image: author)

One of the saving graces of the first Covid lockdown was a small personal Discord server I started to enable a group of my friends who lived across the eastern Australian states to connect and play games while stuck in their houses. Initially we used it for Tabletop Simulator, but over time we shifted to other games; we rediscovered our love of Overwatch, got caught up in the Phasmophobia hype, and then, like five million other gamers, succumbed to the siren’s call of Valheim. We rented a small server, built longhouses, went on sailing expeditions, and hunted mythical beasts.

After…


Photo by T K Hammonds on Unsplash

This piece was written to accompany the latest episode of PodCulture [Oz], which I make along with my co-hosts Philippa and Dave. You can find part one of the superhero episode here. Check it out!

I loathe the MCU movies. The characters are one-dimensional and bland, the villains worse. They don’t have any depth because the only motivations they have are dictated by the plots. There’s nothing wrong with a plot-driven story, but the plots in MCU films are terrible too. They are not so much stories as exercises in logistics; the writers seem more concerned about making sure all…


“History is full of examples of the impotence of the strong and superior man who does not know how to enlist the help, the co-acting of his fellow men.”

— Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I once worked for a not-for-profit that aspired to train leaders. The organisation made leadership central to every activity it undertook. We ran a “Leadership Development Program” and made much of the leadership capabilities of graduates, but I saw little in the curriculum that claimed to be leadership that wasn’t really just people management. Is being “a leader” really the same as being a manager…


The politics of “internet privacy”

Recently I decided to ‘de-google’. It’s the result of a few months of reading, writing, and thinking about Big Tech and Surveillance Capitalism, but all the theory didn’t really prepare me for the complexity of the process.

One of the first things I did was replace Chrome and Google with Firefox and DuckDuckGo, with an ad-blocker. The aim of this assemblage of apps was to defeat Surveillance Capitalism at the coalface — to stop the data flow generated by my browsing going out, and to stop the steady stream of advertising coming in.

It’s a good start, but it’s not…


How Big Tech governs our lives

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The State is not the only thing that governs our lives. There are plenty of other institutions that help to shape our day to day conduct, like the Church, or the workplace. But Big Tech is fast supplanting the State as the principal institution of government in our day to day lives with its constant surveillance of its users and its increasingly bold attempts at behavioural modification at scale.

In my last post, I outlined three methods through which the State governs as a first step in considering whether Big Tech was on the road to supplant or eclipse the…


What do Governments do?

Image: George Tooker, “Government Bureau” (1956), The Metropolitan Museum of Art and DC Moore Gallery (source). Used without permission.

A few months after I started my career as a public servant, I attended a keynote session at a conference titled ‘Could Google run the Government?” The question caused a stir among the gathered public administrators; some soft noises of affirmation mingled with the agitated hubbub and groans of government employees distressed or bored by the question.

But the question stayed with me as I learned the ropes of government work. From outside the government, I’d always assumed it had a monopoly over knowledge and power within its domain, which is why everyone wanted to bend the ears of government…


Express Yourself

Get over your fear of other people if you really want creative success

A woman in a corner leaning her head against a wall, as seen from behind.
A woman in a corner leaning her head against a wall, as seen from behind.
Photo: Francesco Carta fotografo/Moment/Getty Images

I’ve lost track of how many people have told me that they’d never show the draft of their book to anyone. This admission is often accompanied by the qualifier that they’ll show it to someone “when it’s ready.” Another hindrance to creative work that I saw in my time as a history lecturer was from students who would tell me that they struggled to get work in on time because they thought of themselves as “perfectionists.”

Both of these varieties of perfectionism are about other people, not you or your work. …


I mashed this up on my desktop in Paint. Please don’t sue me.

It wasn’t until I started reading up on the ‘Sharing Economy’ that I finally figured out what bothered me about dating apps.

I’ve realised something important about dating apps. They’re sharing economy platforms. It’s a big claim, I know — but stick with me here.

According to Tom Slee in What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy, there are basically four things that define something as a Sharing Economy platform:

  1. they are peer-to-peer platforms that do not provide a service to end users beyond connecting them,
  2. they have in-built rating systems that provide algorithmic regulation,
  3. they turn individuals into micro-entrepreneurs, and
  4. they take a non-market phenomenon powered by human relationships and turn them into a market exchange.

Tinder — and all…

Nick Irving

PhD in Modern History and government functionary. One-time historian of peace and protest, now researching and writing about work.

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