Surveillance Capitalism and Nudging in Pokémon Go: A dispositif Analysis of Behavioral modification and commodification
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From productivity and entertainment to shopping, digital technologies have become an immutable aspect of our daily lives. Through the advent of learning algorithms, digital tools gained consistent and powerful predictive affordances which are highly coveted by marketers and data brokers. Prediction is made possible with data, and serves the ultimate goal of foreseeing behavior (and) or modifying it. When combining behavioral prediction and modification with technology and commodification, surveillance capitalism is spawned. Therefore, understanding how surveillance capitalism works is becoming significantly more critical as the century progresses. This paper aims at applying the dispositif analysis, a simple human-computer interaction framework to Pokémon Go, a mobile augmented reality video game by Niantic. This case study demystifies complex behavioral notions such as nudging and technical concepts falling under the artificial intelligence umbrella such as big data. To illustrate the chosen concepts, practical observations supported by evidence, presented as screenshots are explained with a nuanced theoretical framework. Through a concept-driven dispositif analysis, multiple levels of surveillance capitalism in Pokémon Go were researched. Starting at the lowest level (text), the origin of information on the game was investigated based on its socio-economic relevance. The lowest level was incremented by studying the behavioral implications of this information (spectator). Finally, the commodification of behavior was analyzed in the ultimate step of the dispositif (screen). After analyzing Pokémon Go from the intertwined perspective of behavior, technology and economics, it is confirmed that the game acts as a surveillance capitalist product. In fact, in each step of the analysis, the game lacks transparency, practices market control concerning its participatory data collection process and facilitates advertising for bigger businesses. These findings match critiques of all scholars in the debate, no matter how nuanced or critical. Pokémon Go is therefore indeed a surveillance capitalist product that benefits from opaque behavioral modification and commodification. Niantic controls the market through surveillance capitalism and reaches the status of a leader in location-based augmented reality gaming.