Review of Addiction by design: Machine gambling in Las Vegas

Abstract

Reviews the book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow Schull (2012). Gambling, particularly machine gambling, invokes key concerns in sociological thought and in the present book, the author takes the readers on a journey from the inner life of gamblers to the broader social climate that they play in, using rich narrative accounts of their experiences, interwoven with sharp theoretical insights, to locate addiction within the structures and practices of late capitalist societies. The author uses a road map designed by Mollie as a conceptual tool to take us on an ethnographic tour de force of the gambling spaces of Las Vegas: casinos and strip malls, recovery groups and drugstores, academic conference halls and industry seminars. Through the deceptively simple technique of moving outward from the interior workings of machines, into the ergonomics and design of gambling environments, and finally into the bodies and minds of the players sitting in front of them, the author builds up a compelling narrative that links the phenomenological experience of play with the wider structures of consumer societies. Original, ambitious, and written with elegant lucidity, the book repositions debates in the field of gambling and will surely become a classic text in studies of society and technology.

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