The Virtuality of Sporting Spaces

Consider the life cycle of a sports stadium:

  1. From detailed blueprints, a model of the stadium is constructed in a 3-D virtual reality environment.
  2. This model is used as a tool to condense flows of investment capital and form the structure of the physical building proper.
  3. The stadium is constructed and becomes a fully realized place, in which flows of people are carefully tracked, striated, monitored. There is some freedom of movement, though it is limited, for both patrons and employees of the stadium.
  4. The place becomes visually overexposed, in terms of its optoelectronic surveillance and its production of video flows for spectacular consumption. It is here that we begin to see the reduction of the space to the screen.
  5. This is a precursor to the reproduction of the stadium in the videogame environment, a 3-D non-space that is rendered in the flattened 2-D of the telescreen.
  6. CAE: "Currently, VR takes a very secondary position to older nonimmersive screen-based systems" (Flesh Machine, p.21).
  7. There exists a limited freedom to choose one's identity in this simulated environment: either the corporate manufactured professional athlete avatar or one that is custom designed by the user from a limited menu of rendering possibilities.
  8. On the other hand, one has only an illusory freedom of movement within this environment: beyond the limited body movement possibilities that are programmed into a sports videogame, one also is prevented from moving outside the parameters of the playing field/ice/court by a "glass wall" that keeps the user enclosed within the ideological environment of the game at all times.
  9. Virilio: "In fact, since men first began using enclosures, the notion of what a boundary is has undergone transformations which concern both the facade and what it faces, its vis-à-vis. From the fence to the screen, by way of the rampart's stone walls, the boundary-surface has been continually transformed, perceptibly or imperceptibly. Its most recent transformation is perhaps that of the interface." ("The Overexposed City", Architecture Theory Since 1968, p.543).
  10. CAE: "In terms of the spectacle of consumption, the real problem for VR is that there are very few occasions when the institutions selling the products want to give even the smallest amount of authentic choice to the consumer" (Flesh Machine, p.21).
  11. CAE: "VR’s primary value to the [Ideological State Apparatus] is not as a technology at all, but as a myth. VR functions as a technology that is out on the horizon, promising that one day members of the public will be empowered by rendering capabilities which will allow them to create multisensual experiences to satisfy their own particular desires. … This combination of myth and hardware sets the foundation for the material posthuman world of the cyborg" (Flesh Machine, p.23).

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