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Down on the Farmville

December 10, 2009

I must confess, I hadn’t given any more thought to Farmville than to any of the other games that people play on Facebook, but one of my friends and coursemates has recently started playing and reading his thoughts about it on Facebook and via his blog has been intriguing. I’m resisting the temptation to join in for now (I do, after all, have a full-time masters to do, a part-time job, a serious Tetris habit and the vestiges of a social life), but it’s really interesting to see what it reveals about attitudes to farming and food. Did you know that, in the USA, there are 60 times as many people playing Farmville as there are actual farmers? (I expect there are also more people playing Mafia Wars than there are actual mafiosi.) Or that you can keep pigs, cows, turkeys and chickens, but you have to use them to search for truffles, to give you milk, for feathers and for eggs respectively, not for meat?

Even the name is interesting – as Carolyn Steel points out in Hungry City (one of my favourite food books of all time), living in cities (villes) only became possible after the development of agriculture (farms). The rural population could produce a surplus of food that could be transported to cities, stored and used to feed an urban population, freeing them from the requirements of subsistence and enabling them to do other things, like being translators, or studying the Anthropology of Food, or writing blogs, or colonising the New World (read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond to find out more).

Anyway, I refer you to the expert: http://lifeonthefarmville.wordpress.com. I shall be following this blog with interest. It’s always nice to be reminded that time spent on Facebook is not wasted – it’s valuable empirical data and ethnographic fieldwork.

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