THE CRITICAL MASS is a “sustainable dance club” which uses the kinetic energy of the visitors to power the club itself. The project is framed by its designers as a solution to the wastefulness of the traditional dance club; I see it as a kind of capture of surplus energy which is then transformed into a feedback system, creating game-able loops of information, particularly if – and this isn’t clear – visitors can understand their collective agency, or even their contributive agency, to the ecosystem of the club.
A comparable project is the Google Image Labeler, a game which generates labor – specifically, the task of meta-tagging – as a by-product of a game of semantic coordination between strangers. Players get to accumulate points, Google gets thousands of images tagged without paying a dime for the labor. The labeler seems to have been targeted for abuse, however, perhaps sabotaging its value as a method of producing meta-data. One wonders whether the motivation is to game the system for more in-game points (intrinsic motivation), or if it is an attempt to engineer AdSense traffic results, as certain keywords may cause certain ads to be more likely to appear (extrinsic motivation.) Google is well-equipped to filter out the noise of the latter, of course; if the motivation is the former, however, and the enthusiasm of players who could produce “honest” results is dampened by their inability to compete with a tribe of keyword-sharers, then they may actually see a decline in benefit.