What is the act of sport in the age of mediated simulation? It is to take the sport experience and turn it into a series of data fields to be stored in a spreadsheet or database. Consider the data fields that correspond to the statistical categories for basketball — PTS, REB, AST, BLK, TO, etc. — as well as athlete demographic data such as height, weight and age. This data constitutes an extremely valuable asset for the NBA, which sells it for usage in videogames, fantasy sports, and other downstream media products.
Capturing that data completely changes the sport experience, however. Consider the spreadsheet program, which is used to manage and manipulate vast tables of data. It is interesting that each data field or unit of information in the spreadsheet array is referred to as a cell, which takes on two different meanings in the context of capturing data flows from the sporting uncertainty-of-outcome process:
First is the notion of the cell as a method of confinement, as a technique for segregating athletes (or components thereof) into certain categories; for one can only consider the capture of athletic performance into data fields — or cells — to be later revisited, recombined or repurposed, as a form of confinement: produce numbers, in these predetermined categories, or be relegated to the trash heap.
Second, and perhaps more important to the discussion at hand, is the cell as the digital manifestation of this data originally produced in organic form. With information technologies continuing to insinuate themselves into the body (in both its individual and social/collective forms), the human is becoming increasingly uploaded into virtual space, leaving behind only a carcass that continues to exude bits of data long after its relevance has disappeared. In essence, the decomposing meat of the human athlete metamorphoses into the digital cells of the posthuman athlete, and then shrivels into non-existence.
Consider it a pseudo-Foucaultian disciplinary technology: the digital manifestation of the athlete is confined in the carceral space of the categorical cell boundaries, while the panoptic gaze of the spectating public disciplines and conditions the athlete to perform appropriately within said categories. The athletes are further disciplined by the rank of the categories: in this case, PTS are valued more highly than AST or REB, which are themselves valued more highly than BLK or TO.
The athlete's artistry — the interstitial fluid that holds these cells together — is bled dry in such a digital environment.
Perhaps interstitial fluid is extending the metaphor of corporeality a little too far, however. As the body disintegrates into ones and zeroes, what is truly lost in the process is art as the quintessence of the human soul.