Solid and Gas

Manuel DeLanda, in interview:

The metaphor they use is solid, liquid, gas. If the system is solid, too crystallized, its dynamics are completely uninteresting. If it's gaseous, it's also uninteresting — all you have to do is take averages of behavior and you know what's going on. Liquids have a lot more potential, with all kinds of attractors and bifurcations. Now what they're coming to believe is that the liquid state in nature — not just actual liquids, but liquidity in the abstract sense of being not too rigid or too loose — these liquid systems "poised on the edge of chaos" are natural computers.

We are beginning to think that every liquid in nature can compute, and perhaps consciousness can be an emergent property that can skip the organic and go into silicon — perhaps via us. We might just be insects pollinating machines that do not happen to have their own reproductive organs right now.

In an earlier post on Global Village Basketball, I subconsciously wove the solid-liquid-gas metaphor into my description of the game's emergence. After learning more from DeLanda (one of my professors at EGS this summer), I have a better idea of how this actually works in a basketball context. I am suggesting that basketball as a linguistic system currently exists only in solid and gas phases (preliminary notes below) that shift back and forth in processes of sublimation and deposition — a phase change from solid to gas or vice-versa in which the liquid phase cannot be observed. Global Village Basketball then becomes my attempt to actualize the liquid phase of this linguistic system.

League Basketball (solid) Pickup Basketball (gaseous)
played 5-on-5, as encoded in official rules variable number of players on each team, up to a maximum of 5; usually equal number on each side
playing space and time are (theoretically) fixed across all games time is usually variable across different pickup games; space may be variable as well; often constrained (in a temporal sense) by score
rigid rules concerning uniformity; different coloured uniforms, usually light vs. dark; numbered bodies for administrative purposes not uniform; different coloured shirts or perhaps shirts vs. skins (which throws the question of skin colour into new light, since an equivalence is formed, based perhaps in texture rather than colour)
totally centrally organized in a bureaucratic fashion into league, tournament, or exhibition ("friendly") matches self-organizing in a limited sense; once a space and time are determined, then invitations, phone calls/emails, etc. are used to bring the game together; however, sometimes fully emergent and self-organizing at a public sporting space
coaches run plays and sets on offence and defence; scout opponents; manage a hierarchy for the scarce resource of playing time, etc.; it could be said that the fundamental role of the coach is that of stratification no coaching; sets and patterns emerge from moving bodies and different histories (of de/stratification and representation) commingling on the court

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2 responses to Solid and Gas

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  1. Derek Stashick says:

    While reading this post it got me thinking about the scientific aspects of changing forms. In science, there is often something added to the original state in order for it to change to a new state. This is called a catalyst. An example could be that water (original state) turns to gas (new state) when heat (catalyst) is added to the equation. My point is this: is there a defining catalyst that can change basketball from solid to gaseous or vice versa? My thought is that when changing from gas to solid in basketball, the catalyst would be a desire for order and control. Perhaps the pick-up games are getting too rough, or not enough guys are showing up… but either way, people are craving more order. The catalyst here is their willingfulness to transfer power to organizers and referees in order for a more structured game. On the other side, I'm guessing that the catalyst from solid to gaseous state would be a thirst for power. The soild players are tired of following the rules, and sick of listening to the higher-ups tell them what they do and when they can do it. To break free of this structure, they quit their league and start playing pick-up.

  2. sportsBabel » Collective Forgetting says:

    [...] used in the Global Village Basketball game: what DeLanda describes as an intercalary element that condenses the gaseous particles of pickup sport into liquid form. But the epsilon that signifies error in the model should also at once signify embodiment. For the [...]

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