The Machine Zone in 2022

The Machine Zone website will continue to run quietly and in the background while we put our efforts into distributing our film, One Last Spin.

There are only two of us working voluntarily and even if we were super-robots able to cast wide nets of algorithms we couldn’t begin to develop beyond a whisper.

While most of our focus has been on electronic gambling during the past five years which is an important issue in its own right, we see online gambling as something which is an example of wider concerns in our digital world.

These include thinking about the enormous impact that digital media have on our societies and our individual identities. The early theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote in the 1960s of electronic media becoming ‘extensions of our nervous systems’. To some extent we swim in a digital medium, unaware of it as fish are unaware of water.

At an everyday level our attachment to digital devices determines how we live our lives, how we spend our time. Would we rather be constantly checking our ‘feeds’ at the dinner table, for instance, or taking part in human conversation? Do we think of Alexa as a sort of friend? Are we enticed by microtargeted advertising to behaviours that are not good for us? Do commercial interests employ digital techniques to hit our basic human vulnerabilities?

Are we, as ordinary people, equipped to use the ‘goods’ of digital technology while avoiding the ‘bads’ – and is this even possible now? There are huge questions that we can only ask about what it means to live in the digital world of 2022. We’ll ask some of them in the coming twelve months. We think we have asked some already in our previous posts, though of course nobody has time to read anything these days! We tend to be highly anxious to jump from one bit (or byte) of stimulation or entertainment to the next.

Returning to gambling as an example of some of the questions that may be raised, we’ll end with a quotation from a book we reviewed, Vicious Games by anthropology professor Rebecca Cassidy:

            ‘An experiment which began in the 1980s ((financial deregulation, neoliberalism)), to shift the burden of risk from the state to the citizen, has increased inequalities and changed the ways in which we imagine wealth is created and shared. Gambling has been at the heart of these shifts: in the City as it deregulated and embraced riskier, increasingly complex and opaque ways to make money, becoming less and less accountable as a result, and in government itself, which encouraged citizens to become self-sufficient individualists.’

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