Immaterial Striation

Lines of striation need not have a material manifestation. For example, grids of latitude and longitude cannot be physically observed on the ground, yet have great power to channel flows of navigation on land and sea. And while they cannot physically be observed, we visualize them in other representational forms such as maps or globes.

[T]he sea is a smooth space par excellence, and yet was the first to encounter the demands of increasingly strict striation. The problem did not arise in proximity to land. On the contrary, the striation of the sea was a result of navigation on the open water. Maritime space was striated as a function of two astronomical and geographical gains: bearings, obtained by a set of calculations based on exact observation of the stars and the sun; and the map, which intertwines meridians and parallels, longitudes and latitudes, plotting regions known and unknown onto a grid (like a Mendeleyev table) (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 479).

Sport offers similar examples of physical territories with varying degrees of smoothness that have lines of striation superimposed in an invisible, yet well understood fashion. The first down line in gridiron football is a fiction that forces the offensive team to move the ball forward 10 yards within four downs in order to maintain possession. And in association football offsides is understood as the line perpendicular to both sidelines that runs through the last defender on the field which cannot be crossed by an offensive player until after the ball has been passed by a teammate.

Courtesy of SporTVisionCourtesy of SporTVision

Unlike with latitude and longitude, however, these two sporting examples feature moving lines. Their lack of stationary position negates any ability to have a fixed material presence on the field of play. While we also attempt to visualize these moving lines in other representational forms, the frequent line changes and pace of the moving bodies require the medium to be moving as well. Hence the virtual imaging systems currently used in the televisual production of sporting spectacle, such as those shown here by SporTVision, with bearings fixed by multiple cameras surrounding the field of play and lines plotted on a map in virtual space.

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7 responses to Immaterial Striation

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  1. Genevieve Marion says:

    The aspect of sports using lines to govern physical territories and determine boundaries for 1st and ten or offside calls reminds me of how patients with Multiple Sclerosis use visual cues in order to motivate them to move. People with multiple sclerosis as well as their researchers have adopted the same practices (using lines or striations) in 2 completely different fields (one sport and one neuroscience)in order to achieve the same results.Patients with MS tend to get stuck during physical movements such as walking. Some visual cues that help them to walk without stopping or getting stuck are placing lines on the floor to motivate them and give them a goal to achieve. This is much like football, where the players must travel 10 yards, marked by lines (visible or not) in order to make a first down. Although in the case of sports, the team does not suffer from a neurological disease and do not need the lines on the field in order to physically move, however sports and MS patient are using the same cues to motivate themselves.

  2. Michael Zwolak says:

    The presence of “first down lines” and “offside lines” shows the human aspect of sport officiating slowly being phased out. Today’s sports fan wants to have access to all information to ensure that a game is played fairly and all of the appropriate calls are made. More recently in events such as the World Cup and European league football matches, the offside line has been used as a means to question the consistency of officials in determining whether an opposing player has crossed the imaginary line created by the position of a defender. When an incorrect call is made, the focus immediately shifts to the referee, often directing blame for a team’s loss on them. With video replays currently being used in the NHL, NFL, CFL and also the NBA at the ends of quarters, the human element of officiating games is being taken over. At some point, a large majority of games will be decided on the views of a computer or sensors rather than a human being. In Major League Baseball, Fox’s “Strike-Zone” and ESPN’s “K-Zone” represent the newest ways of deciding whether an umpires calls are correct or not. At what point will this technology be utilized in order to call a complete game? These technologies have the ability to totally rid games of human error when it comes to differentiating between strikes and balls. Today’s sport society is constantly concerned with fairness (i.e. athletes that use performance enhancing substances vs. those who do not) and therefore should be willing to embrace such technology in order to ensure fairness between teams and the pitcher vs. batter. Professional tennis has adopted similar technology that is used to tell viewers whether a ball is in or out. As of right now, these technologies are being used to enhance the viewing experience of the fan, but at some point in time they will become devices that actually take over the officiating of a game, much like video replay did. So the question remains; to what extent can we replace the element of human error with new age devices? Are they merely aids for the purpose of fan enjoyment or will we see these imaginary lines become the future of professional sport. At any rate, it seems that at some point the modern day official/referee/umpire will go the way of the NHL goal judge. They will no longer be necessary in a sporting culture that demands perfection.

  3. Lindsay Cline says:

    The introduction of these "first down lines" and "offside" lines illustrates how sport is trying to reach an even larger audience. As someone who does not follow football very often but will watch the occasional game these lines help make the game easier for me to follow. With ticket prices going up every year, targetting mass audiences through television is the way to go. You can only build stadiums to be so big but you can reach so many more people through television, and from all areas of the world. By making the game easier to follow on television, with the addition of these imaginary lines, you start to draw in more and more people to football. These lines also emphasize how our society likes to receive immediate feedback or instantaneous communication. Before the addition of these "first down lines" on television, viewers had to wait patiently for the linesmen to get out the chains and measure to see if they got over the first down line. Today, we are so used to getting instant feedback and communication, most predominantly with internet, that these lines aid in that process of immediate feedback. Now, when I am watching a game on Television , I know right away (unless there is a huge pile and the football carrier is hidden) whether or not the football crossed the first down line. I don't have to wait for a newscaster actually at the game to tell me that the player crossed the line.

  4. David Tertula says:

    The presence of the ‘imaginary’ and approximate yellow lines depicted in these pictures are widely used in sports but are not the “end all and be all”, other measuring devices are implemented such as the 10 yard chains in the NFL. This measurement tool is often brought out onto the field to challenge whether the player with the football has actually passed the 10 yard plain. These chains are used as methodical as possible and precision is often exemplified as it has been seen that the ball is often “inches” short. These imaginary lines are used by the overhead officials who have access to all of the different camera angles as well as the viewers at home. The lines have not been implemented to phase-out the linesmen but rather use technology to try to approximate where specific distances are so it is easier for the governing body to determine if the measurement is close enough that the 10 yard chains must be brought out to measure. This technology is used in a variety of sport but I believe that the true advancement of this technology will consist of sensors determining if a play is offside, the ball has reached the 10 yard mark, or the baseball passing through the strike zone. The future of this technology will have sensors determining the correct calls based on placement of objects instead of just a visual line in which individuals must interpret, often with human error being an issue.

  5. Lindsay Orosz says:

    The broadcasting of professional sport on national television networks is an industry with incredibly high stakes. High in terms of potential viewing audiences, the massive amounts of money at stake from the sponsors, and also the progression and results of the game itself. For this reason I feel that since we have the technology, it would be crazy not to digitally monitor these arbitrary and ever changing boundaries. On the other hand, if we ever reach a point where lower levels of sport are being scrutinized to the same degree of acuracy, I feel we will have taken things too far. I think that there is a certian degree of ambiguity in sport that is necessary to keep things interesting. For example, in a houseleague soccer game, a debate over whether or not a player was offside can add an element of excitement to a game and can also fuel healthy competition between the two teams.

  6. Alyssa Minor says:

    Without the use of media and sporTVisual aids on TV, would sports have the same type of audience and mass spectatorship? Those who truly watch the sport and understand it would not be lost, but how much harder would it be for an individual who is new to viewing a sport such as football to learn the concepts of the game and understand the imaginary lines of the first down, offside’s, false starts etc.
    The question then arises, has society become and will society continue to become too dependent on media technologies in everyday life? Is this a good or bad thing? Have we become lazy? Does advancing technology dull our senses and cognitive thinking? We allow technologies to perform certain things for us, so what does that mean for the human race? Whoever invents such new technologies must have a large capacity of understanding for such things, but how will their “work of art” affect members of society in general? We should be striving to advance technologies in ways that will also advance the human race. These technologies should not be thinking and performing tasks for us. There is a risk that throughout the years, the human race will become less intelligent and lose its ability to think freely and be opinionated through the idea of evolution. If machines and technology are doing all the hard work for us, then what will we need these “tools” for anymore? The human race could evolve and lose important cognitive features. Also, the new form of oppression or power in the near future could be held by the technologies themselves. Instead of leaders going power crazy and enforcing his/her ideas and making us into clones of one another, the technologies that we have created could begin to do it for us. Not in the sense of technologies turning on their makers or masters such as in a movie like “I-Robot”; but in the sense that we are giving these new technologies and those who control them the power to do things for us. Society is headed down a dangerous path if we allow for machines and medium to do the thinking for us. What is so hard about taking the extra time to figure out where the first down line is, or to type a letter instead of just speaking aloud and have a computer type it for us? Might it be better for our cognitive selves to be forced to visualize the boundaries of play such as the line of scrimmage and first down line, instead of sitting and watching a game like zombies?

  7. sportsBabel » The Politics of Memory says:

    [...] created, intentionally or no, a striation of the globally-networked information space. And this principle of striation has most certainly been intentionally encoded into DVD and Blu-ray region coding schemes, which are [...]