A distinguished award for a work that speaks
to contemporary social issues with relevance
beyond the discipline
Associate Professor Natasha Schüll of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) has received the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (AES) for her book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton 2012).
“This is a wonderful and much-deserved honor,” said STS program head Professor David Kaiser in announcing the award to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Awarded every other year to the best first book by a junior scholar, the Stephens Prize “goes to a work that speaks to contemporary social issues with relevance beyond the discipline and beyond the academy,” according to the AES website.
Schüll’s book examines the lives of compulsive machine gamblers and reveals that what motivates them is not the promise of a big payoff, but total immersion in the experience—what one gambler called the “machine zone.” “This experience of being in the zone is one we’ve all had, whether it’s eBay auctions or sitting on the train compulsively using our phones,” Schüll told the MIT News Office. “It’s the flow of the experience that people are after. Money to [compulsive machine gamblers] is a means to sit there longer, not an end. They don’t win a jackpot and leave, they win a jackpot and sit there until it’s gone.”
Previous Stephens Prize winners include Julie Chu for Cosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China in 2011 and Winifred Tate for Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia in 2009.