Natasha Lushetich


For Foucault, discipline was a subtle form of power that coerced the body in order to control its movements, attitudes and moods. A disciplined body was thus a body trained for the production of specific corporeal operations; it was docile because its life energies had been channelled in such ways as to increase economic utility and decrease non-regulated assignments of energy, including political disobedience. For Jon McKenzie, it is performance that takes the place of disciplinarity in the 21st century. Seen as an ‘onto-historical formation of power’, performance refers not only to techno-organisational efficiency but to excessive performance, too. Unlike the disciplinary regime, which prompts compliant displays of normative behaviour, performance adopts the norm by means of transgression and produces playful, hyperactive subject-actors in the process.

By focusing on AR games – games that transcend the ‘magic circle’ and ‘leak into’ reality – this paper asks the following question: can the existential amplification found in play be seen as the next echelon in the performance-indexed formation of power? The framework for examining this possibility is based on the interpenetration of positive and negative freedom found in AR games, which, although pervasively present in all areas of life due to the ubiquity of mobile computing, conform to Huizinga’s definition of play as an activity that proceeds according to the rules freely accepted and outside the sphere of necessity. Since positive freedom is the freedom to accept the necessary obligations, while negative freedom (the cornerstone of neoliberalism), is freedom from restraint, AR games can be seen as a stand-in for positive freedom. In examining the relationship between chief AR components: extreme engagement, tight feedback loops and striated goals, this paper reflects on the possibility of a disciplinarity derived from freedom and excess, rather than from restrictive channeling and constraint.