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Hackathons are dystopian events that dupe people into working for free, say sociologists

Hackathons are dystopian events that dupe people into working for free, say sociologists
[Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg/Wikimedia Commons]

That’s the conclusion that two sociologists came to after observing seven hackathons over the period of one year, reports Wired. In “Hackathons As Co-optation Ritual: Socializing Workers and Institutionalizing Innovation in the ‘New’ Economy,” sociologists Sharon Zukin and Max Papadantonakis argue that companies use the allure of hackathons to get people to work for free. They say sponsors fuel the “romance of digital innovation by appealing to the hackers’ aspiration to be multi-dimensional agents of change” when in fact the hackathons are just a means of labor control.

The sociologists point out that at many large tech companies, employees may feel compelled to attend weekend internal hackathons that are only designed to squeeze the innovation out of [their workers], for free. They say such techniques and motives embody a set of “quasi-Orwellian” ideas masked in aspirational messaging that, in truth, should read: “Work is Play,” “Exhaustion is Effervescent,” and “Precarity is Opportunity.”

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