18-20 August 2022

Algorithmic Game of Fortune and The Making of Digital Entrepreneurs: Micro-Influencing as Platform Labour in China

Yingqin Zheng (Royal Holloway, University of London)


This paper investigates how grassroot micro-influencers (MIs) in China are enrolled on digital platforms as micro-entrepreneurs through an algorithmic ‘Game of Fortune’. Our findings from an ethnographic fieldwork show how discourses of self-making entrepreneurs and the opaque, dynamic platform algorithms serve to lock participants into a form of cruel optimism. This paper extends Burawoy’s (1979) notion of the game of ‘producing consent’ by drawing upon Roger Cailois’ (2001) work on play and games, in particular, agon and alea. In doing so the paper provides novel perspectives on platform labour by introducing the algorithmic game of fortune and discusses how it contributes to the production of inequality in digital societies. 


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